ACCC chairman: Uber “cannot be stopped”

Angus Kidman 23 February 2016

Uber cannot be stopped

"Governments in the end are finding ways to legalise Uber because it's just too popular, they cannot stop it."

Ride sharing service Uber has received a ringing endorsement from the head of Australia's competition authority, who says that governments attempting to regulate against Uber are effectively doomed to failure.

"Governments in the end are finding ways to legalise Uber because it's just too popular, they cannot stop it," Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Rod Sims told a lunch hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) in Sydney today.

"I think the digital disruption [caused by Uber and other ride sharing services] is the most pro competition thing going on in the country at the moment," Sims said. "It's just fantastic." Previous attempts to improve competition and service in the taxi market had not been successful, he noted.

Uber's popularity with consumers didn't mean that no regulation was possible, Sims noted. "Provided what you're regulating for is to create a level playing field rather than stop the digital disruption, then I think it's fine," he said. However, that approach would not be consistent with "banning" Uber or other services.

Sims emphasised that his comments were his own view based on 40 years working in competition policy, rather than an official ACCC stance. Nonetheless, his remarks suggest that any attempt to have Uber blocked under competition law would be difficult.

Uber has faced fierce challenges from taxi industry bodies across the country, who argue that unregulated drivers pose a risk to consumer safety and render investments in taxi licences worthless. Consumers have embraced the service, citing better reliability and the ability to track and rate drivers. Uber has aggressively signed up new drivers for its uberX service, where individuals use their own cars to provide taxi-like services.

In NSW, Uber was legalised last year but subject to a number of conditions, including not operating at Sydney Airport, where its prices are considerably cheaper, and compensation for taxi drivers. This week, the Northern Territory government officially declared the service illegal.

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