With the busy Christmas period approaching, the Australian Taxi Industry Association (ATIA) has warned customers they will be putting their personal safety at risk by using rogue smartphone apps to book taxis or private hire cars.
ATIA spokesperson Benjamin Wash said the industry is stepping up its campaign to protect the public following increased publicity of third-party smartphone apps, including overseas companies entering the Australian market.
He said the only safe smartphone taxi apps that meet government requirements are those connected to recognised taxi company brands.
“As we enter a high-volume period, customers may be tempted to use rogue apps, but they will forgo their personal protection in doing so,” he said.
“These apps are outside the system and operate in a legal grey area. Anyone can register as a driver and pick up a passenger, including people with mental issues or criminal motives. There are no driver checks, no background checks, no accountability and no records. You don’t even have to drive a real taxi. The implications are scary.”
Mr Wash predicted that app companies will try to imply the taxi industry’s objections are an attempt to protect market share, but said the industry only wants to protect customers.
“We care about our customers. We care about our drivers. These rogue app companies will say anything in their quest for profit. I’ve heard them say they keep location records but that’s no good to you if you are injured or dead.”
He said the taxi industry – as a door-to-door service – is the safest form of transport available and drivers are continually police-checked.
“Taxis are relied upon by business, the disabled, young people and the elderly – among others – to get them to their destinations safely.
“Let’s keep things in perspective. Taxis around Australia carry almost two million people each day and the problems are minuscule – Probably less than most industries experience. This is a direct result of on-going efforts by the industry to improve services and safety.”
Mr Wash said authorised apps from recognised taxi companies will protect customers and are a great way to book a cab. He recommended that customers make sure the app carries the name of the taxi that will pick them up.