No limit on taxi fares under major industry shake-up

Taxi.  generic taxis at Tullamarine Airport waiting for customers.  Melbourne Saturday Age. news. Photo by Angela Wylie. March 24 2011.

AFR 13-11-2013

Taxi. generic taxis at Tullamarine Airport waiting for customers. Melbourne Saturday Age. news. Photo by Angela Wylie. March 24 2011. AFR 13-11-2013

The Age - NEWS - 28 October 2008 - Taxi drivers wait in a queue at Melrose Lounge near Melbourne Airport - Generic taxis , taxi , cabs , taxicab , taxi rank , airport . Picture by Paul Rovere SPECIAL TAXI

The Age - NEWS - 28 October 2008 - Taxi drivers wait in a queue at Melrose Lounge near Melbourne Airport - Generic taxis , taxi , cabs , taxicab , taxi rank , airport . Picture by Paul Rovere SPECIAL TAXI

The taxi industry is set for a massive shake-up, with taxi companies able to set their own prices under the latest set of reforms.

Under the reforms, due to be introduced in State Parliament on Wednesday, passengers booking via an app would receive a fare estimate at the time of booking.

Drivers will also be required to give fare estimates to anyone who hails a cab from the street. Only taxis with safety cameras will be able to pick up such passengers.

To get the best price, passengers will have to shop around using taxi company apps, or ask drivers on the street for a fare estimate.

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised that the deregulation will lead to drivers having the power to refuse short fares.

If the laws pass Parliament, it is unlikely they will be implemented before next year.

Uber, which uses surge pricing during periods of high demand, is already operating without pricing limits.

Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said the "second stage of comprehensive reforms will continue our work in improving services and reducing fares for Victorian passengers".

Drivers will have to give accurate estimates of taxis fare and risk losing their accreditation if they mislead customers, or collude to surge prices during busy periods.

"When there are drivers, or providers, who break the rules there are tougher penalties that can boot them off the road," Ms Allan said.

The minister said increased competition between taxi operators would lead to lower taxi fares.

"With more services, more competition. We expect to see prices come down and indeed industry providers have already signalled that they expect to see prices come down."

"For the first time, we're providing a level playing field by allowing the taxi industry to compete with new providers and giving passengers more choice."

The minister has previously hit out at Uber over its surge pricing tactics during a Metro Trains network-wide outage this July. At the time, Uber slapped surge pricing of more than three times the normal fares on commuters caught up in the disruption.

"I think their behaviour exposed their approach to the way they treat people who use their services," she said. "Taking advantage of people in a difficult circumstance is not a way to run the business."

Ms Allan said if passengers are not happy with a fair estimate under the changes, they can choose to refuse to use the service.

"Passengers will just simply reject those services that don't meet the requirements," she told radio station 3AW.

This story No limit on taxi fares under major industry shake-up first appeared on The Age.