The Victorian government is cracking down on the "ride-sharing" component of the smartphone app Uber by issuing $1700 fines to drivers.
The app allows any motorist - not necessarily a licensed taxi or hire-car driver - to receive money for providing lifts, in addition to offering authorised taxi and private hire-car services.
Representatives of Victoria's Taxi Services Commission have been using the app to take rides, thus identifying drivers in order to issue fines.
Commissioner Graeme Samuel said the commission had sent "well over" 30 fines to drivers and that there were more to be issued.
"Simon: story on the fines is about to break in Vic," Uber Sydney general manager David Rohrsheim told his Melbourne counterpart, Simon Rossi, after forwarding Fairfax questions to him.
"I'd recommend not answering the question and instead issuing a pro uber pro choice pro city pro innovation message. If you give him just one sentence, Ben will publish it," Mr Rohrsheim told Mr Rossi.
The advice resulted in Mr Rossi issuing a statement along those lines to Fairfax, which accidentally contained Mr Rohrsheim's media advice.
Taxi companies are unhappy about the spread of services such as Uber. Photo: Joe Armao
"We're providing economic opportunity and affordable, safe transportation. Is this something Melbourne wants to stop?" Mr Rossi told Fairfax.
"Consumers and drivers have told us they love ride-sharing with Uber. Cities that choose not to embrace Uber's technology are missing out."
One driver published his fine on the Australian Whirlpool broadband forum website.
"I have just received a fine of $1732 from the Victorian Taxi Commission for driving a UberX," he said. UberX is the name of Uber's ride-sharing service.
More than $50,000 in fines have been issued.
As yet, no action has been taken against Uber in Melbourne, but Mr Samuel would not rule this out.
"Uber could have avoided all of this if they had just come in and seen us three weeks ago," he said.
"It just leaves me absolutely gobsmacked the way they have dealt with this."
Mr Samuel said the company was not complying with Victorian law. He said he was due to meet Uber's Melbourne representatives next week.
The commissioner and the Victorian Transport Minister Terry Mulder had previously warned people against using Uber's ride-sharing service.
Mr Samuel previously stated there could be a place for ride-sharing if drivers were properly licensed and had been through checks.
"What we want to do is to facilitate competition and we see Uber as a source of competition," Mr Samuel said. "But it needs to be competition that is on grounds to protect the public interest."
On Thursday, NSW Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian said Uber's ride-sharing service was operating within a "grey area".
Roads and Maritime Services were investigating, Ms Berejiklian said.
"At the moment what we are doing is looking to see whether those drivers are classified as prohibited drivers or whether they're not.
"So RMS is currently investigating into that and I'm looking forward to their report in the near future."
NSW Premier Mike Baird said the matter was something the NSW government had to consider.
"There's an evolving modern world that is providing opportunities and how you adapt - the government needs to consider that."
theage.com.au 8 May 2014
Unfortunately for the 'authorities' concerned, the so called 'fine' that is issued is UNLAWFUL.