Cabbies not app-y

PASSENGERS risk being picked up by anyone if they use smartphone taxi booking apps that bypass taxi networks, according to Orange Taxis chairman Darryl Curran.

Taxi networks across the state and the Taxi Council have slammed the apps as insecure and unsafe for both passengers and drivers.

Orange Taxis started offering bookings through the SmartHail iPhone app last week.

Mr Curran said unlike other apps it connects directly with the on-board computers in the cars, whereas apps like goCatch allow anyone with a smartphone to log in and pose as a driver. 

He said passengers who used non-network affiliated apps were in danger of being picked up by drivers who did not have a taxi licence.

“I could download an app now and pick someone up in a four-wheel-drive and take them wherever I wanted,” he said.

“It’s a massive safety issue. All the networks are slowly rolling out their own apps.”

Mr Curran said the SmartHail allowed passengers to track where and when their taxi will arrive on a map on their phone after it is booked.

They can also review their journey and report any problems.

“I expect everyone with an iPhone to use it so they don’t have to wait on the phone,” he said.

Last week the co-founder of the goCatch app Andrew Campbell said drivers at some regional taxi networks had been bullied for bypassing their networks and using the goCatch app. 

He said many drivers were falsely told the taxi booking apps were illegal.

“Restricting drivers to the one network is anti-competitive - these networks have onerous contractual agreements which block productivity, reduce efficiency and limit competition,” he said.

But Mr Curran said drivers in Orange had never used the goCatch app and he believed it was illegal.

“It’s against the law for taxi drivers to use for the simple reason that it doesn’t go to the taxi, it goes to the phone,” he said.

“They have to be authorised with the network whereas the other apps leave everyone open to be picked up by vehicles that aren’t roadworthy. At best they’ll be ripped off.”

Last year, the taxi industry accused the state government of having conflicting views on taxi booking apps when the government invested $200,000 in goCatch at the same time a review into the regulation of apps not associated with taxi networks was under way.

At the launch of the goCatch app in December, Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner acknowledged that regulation was struggling to catch up with technology.

The NSW Taxi Council formed a partnership with Crime Stoppers to endorse taxi network booking apps as a safer method than apps like goCatch.

clare.colley@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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