An Uber driver claims two Wollongong taxi drivers accosted him as he was picking up a passenger at a northern Illawarra pub.
The south-western Sydney driver, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said he was in the region for Wings Over Illawarra on Saturday.
He decided to pick up a fare on his way home – which is allowable under Uber’s policy.
He headed to Towradgi Beach Hotel, idling in the area where taxis pick up passengers – and that’s where he said the trouble started.
“I was there to do a pick-up and I was confronted by a female taxi driver at first and then a male taxi driver,” the man said.
“They were implying that I was doing something illegal and that I had no right to be in the car park of the pub.”
The driver said he repeatedly asked them to leave him alone and began filming the incident for his own protection.
“I had every right to be there,” he said.
“They claimed that I couldn’t be there because it was a taxi rank, but it’s not. It’s owned by the business of that hotel.”
Ride share drivers are not permitted by law to pick up passengers at taxi ranks.
However, there is no signage present in the Towradgi Beach Hotel car park that identifies that location as a taxi rank.
The driver admitted he was unnerved by the confrontation and said he was worried that female Uber drivers could face the same thing.
“I really don’t feel like coming back down there until it’s all sorted out, I tell you that much – and I’m not a small boy,” the driver said.
“It was certainly harassment and it was certainly intimidating.”
The driver said their actions contravened state legislation regarding passenger transport, which calls for them to “behave in an orderly manner” towards other drivers.
The maximum punishment for this breach under the legislation is 50 penalty units.
With one unit equivalent to $110, the maximum penalty a court can impose is a $5500 fine.
Uber spokesman Mike Scott confirmed the incident had been reported to them.
“There is no place for this kind of intimidating behaviour in our community and we've been in contact with the driver-partner to offer our support,” Mr Scott said.
A Roads and Maritime Services spokesman said they had “no record of alleged intimidation by Wollongong taxi drivers towards ride share drivers”.
“Any threat of intimidation should be referred to NSW Police,” the spokesman said.
Wollongong Radio Cabs and the NSW Taxi Council were both contacted for comment.
No sympathy for ‘despicable’ taxi drivers
The director of ride share company Go Buggy has branded the actions of some Wollongong taxi drivers as “despicable”.
Simon Robinson launched the service in Wollongong last year but pulled out of the region “because it was such a hard market to crack”.
Mr Robinson said his drivers were victims of “intimidatory tactics” from cabbies, which included taking photos of drivers and their cars, yelling abuse and using the phone app to track their cars.
At least one taxi driver opted for a far more frightening tactic.
“One of our female drivers contacted us while she was on a journey and said that a taxi was following her,” Mr Robinson said.
“He did follow her to a remote part of Wollongong when she pulled over. We were actually following him after she called.
“We found that the taxi driver pulled over just as she was stopping. She let the customer out and headed back into town and he followed her back into town as well.”
Mr Robinson said this sort of behaviour would only continue to cause problems for the Wollongong taxi industry
“They’ll just continue to lose market share over time and they’ve only got themselves to blame,” he said.
“Uber is handing out $20 free ride vouchers, they’re just going to decimate the industry down there for the taxis.”
If that happened, Mr Robinson said he had “no sympathy” for the industry.
“Down there I think they deserve everything they get,” Mr Robinson said.
“Their behaviour has been despicable. We waited until it had been legislated before we started our operation. We did everything by the book and they wanted to use tactics like that.”