One year on, Uber proves no match for local taxi service

By Holly Tregenza

It’s been almost a year since Uber announced it was expanding into Shepparton, generating concern and anger from local taxi services.

But it appears the impact has been minimal, and one cab company has actually recorded an increase in passengers compared to this time last year.

Shepparton taxi owner Dane Hall said jobs were up 50 per cent from November 2018, having increased from 8000 to 12 000.

He put his success down to a big rebrand which saw Shepparton Taxis join 13cabs in June.

Mr Hall said the switch had helped to even the playing field.

“Updating our technology with the 13cabs app has certainly helped,” he said.

“You can order a taxi and pay via the app, and there are extra safety features like having the driver registration and full name. It’s what the young fellas want.

“It’s clear that what happened in the metro isn’t going to happen here. The local community has backed us, we are locally owned, and our regular clientele has stuck with us.”

Uber's Victorian head Matthew Horn said the service had been “delighted” with the response from Victorian riders and driver partners since turning on the app, but declined to provide specific data on the number of drivers operating in town, how many users have booked lifts, or the average cost of a ride.

At the time of the launch, Uber told The News that between five and seven drivers had been accredited and thousands of people had demonstrated interest.

The News tested the service on a Friday morning just before 11 am.

With just one Uber driver available in Shepparton, it took 10 minutes for the car to arrive at the office.

On the way to the drop-off point, Uber driver Haixiong Wu said he’d been working for the ride share service since coming to Shepparton from China last year.

“I don’t have enough customers though,” he said.

“It’s a good job for me because I am still learning English and it is flexible.

“But even on Saturday and Sundays, it is not busy.”

Mr Hall said his clients liked knowing who their driver would be.

“I’ve owned taxis for 15 years and I know my clients’ names when I pull up,” Mr Hall said.

“A lot of older people won’t use an app and they make up a portion of our regular clientele that are our bread and butter that help us send our kids to school and put food on the table.”

A spokesperson from 13cabs echoed his sentiment.

“The impact of ride-share services in Shepparton has been minimal,” they said.

“The local community have clearly chosen safety and convenience over glib marketing campaigns.”

Mr Hall said he was still considering taking part in the class action against Uber given that he had lost an estimated $750 000 on the value of his taxi licence since the rules changed when Uber was introduced.

“It hasn’t affected out business too much in terms of customers, but we have still lost big on our investments.”