Victorian taxi drivers will be forced to turn on their meters for rides hailed on the street or ranks under regulation changes to stop fare gouging.
The Victorian government is updating commercial passenger industry regulations to ban taxi drivers from negotiating fares for unbooked trips in Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.
The changes will kick in from September 28 ahead of the AFL grand final, Melbourne Cup Carnival and Australian Open.
Taxi drivers were allowed to negotiate the cost of a ride if approached without a booking after the industry was deregulated in 2018 to accommodate rideshare services such as Uber.
It has resulted in some taxi drivers requesting exorbitant prices for short trips during major Melbourne events, including the Australian Open and Formula One Grand Prix.
Public Transport Minister Ben Carroll said the amended regulations would mean taxi drivers must use their meters for trips from ranks or when hailed on the street.
“Everyone is entitled to a fair fare – for too long, there has been some price gouging and exorbitant prices,” he told reporters on Monday.
“This is an important change that will bring about certainty, fairness and safety for our Victorian taxi community.”
Victorian Taxi Association Director Peter Valentine said the issue became noticeable on Caulfield Cup day last year and progressively got worse.
“It’s not acceptable for residents or visitors to come into the city and be treated this way, and it’s not a safe atmosphere for drivers or passengers,” he told AAP.
Mr Valentine put the years-long delay in the problem emerging down to fewer taxi trips during the COVID-19 pandemic and word of mouth spreading among drivers about the legality of refusing to run the meter.
Industry regulations should have been modified instead of effectively being thrown out in 2018, he added.
‘”That clearly was a mistake,” Mr Valentine said.
“It’s just a little bit of regulation, it doesn’t have to be a lot; a little bit just makes it a lot easier.
“It’s like the two white lines on the road – it defines where you’re going to drive your car. You stay within those lines and everyone is happy.”
13Cabs spokesman David Samuel similarly backed the reforms on behalf of the sector.
“Most of our drivers do the right thing,” he said.
“We want to see that small cohort of drivers being held accountable for their behaviour.”