Drivers in Canberra wanting to make some extra money through ride-sharing service Uber will have to get government accreditation, including criminal and driving history checks.
Uber will arrive in the ACT in a month but its drivers will face similar rules to the taxi industry as the territory becomes the first jurisdiction to regulate ride-sharing services.
Regulations will be introduced in two stages.
The first, to start from October 30, requires ride-share drivers to be accredited and registered, with criminal and driving history checks, and have safety checks done on their cars.
Drivers must be alcohol and drug free. Booking services have to have customer complaint mechanisms and surge pricing will be banned during emergencies.
A second stage of regulation, starting after legislation is passed, will require ride-share drivers to have compulsory third party and property insurance.
There will be training requirements for drivers and passengers won’t be allowed to pay cash unless cars have security cameras in them.
Taxi drivers facing increased competition will see their licence fees halve on October 30 from the $20,000 charged now, and then drop again to $5000 in 2017.
Hire care licence fees will drop from $4600 to $100.
And people wanting to be drivers for Uber or other ride-sharing services will have to pay a $150 each year in licence and accreditation fees, plus charges for vehicle inspections and background checks.
Only taxis will be able to pick up people from cab ranks and off the street – all other drivers must arrange pre-booked fares.
The ACT government believes its regulations strike a balance between allowing the sharing economy to thrive in Canberra while recognising the pressure it puts on existing taxi drivers and owners.
“These reforms are a win for Canberrans and those travelling to the territory, improving access to diverse transport options and competitive pricing,” Transport Minister Shane Rattenbury said in a statement.
Unions warned they would closely scrutinise the new regulations to make sure rights of drivers – both for Uber and taxi networks – weren’t eroded.
Uber and taxi drivers were at significant risk of exploitation, often earning below minimum wages, Unions ACT secretary Alex White said.
The ACT’s announcement comes a day after the Victorian government said it was preparing a regulatory scheme for ride-sharing services to address passenger safety, driver and vehicle standards and insurance issues.
NSW is also looking at introducing similar rules.
Uber applauded what it called “global leadership” from the ACT government in allowing it to operate in the territory, saying other jurisdictions should follow.
The proposed regulations were sensible and safety-based, the company said in a statement.
“The ACT government have shown true leadership in their progressive approach to bringing a safe, affordable and reliable point-to-point transport alternative to Canberra,” Uber said.