A court decision in Victoria earlier today makes the future of Uber very uncertain. While the revolutionary service has been in a grey area for years, the year-long court battle between an Uber driver and the taxi cartels has emphatically fallen the wrong way. (more about the decision at The Age, the Herald Sun, and ABC Online.)
Today in Melbourne, a court deemed Uber driver Nathan Brenner guilty of driving a hire car without a commercial licence or registration (reported in The Age).
Put simply, Uber has now been clarified as illegal.
Just when we thought the ridesharing momentum was shifting – ACT legalised the service one month ago – Victoria has taken a further step backwards.
This year-long test case sends a strong signal against the growing ridesharing tech giant. There are 11 other drivers facing similar charges. But the real losers here are the Victorian economy and the rights of Australian producers and consumers. As I wrote in the West Australian earlier this year:
Australians should be appalled at this latest government intrusion on exchange. Acceptance of an Uber ride is a voluntary exchange. As with any other free market transaction, both parties understand the risks and agree to the conditions. To require permission to willingly trade private property flies in the face of a free society.
Although the court is simply interpreting the law, these rules are outdated and desperately in need of change. The Victorian government needs to get out of the way of this potential economic revolution.