11 Jan 2015

Dispute over 'crackdown' claims

4:30 pm on 11 January 2015

Police in Auckland are denying claims that officers have been targeting Uber drivers and kicking passengers out of their cars.

A Madrid judge has banned the popular Uber smartphone taxi service from operating in Spain.

Uber's rapid growth has led to tensions with taxi companies in several countries, including New Zealand. Photo: AFP

The app company has filed a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA), saying police have been wrongly issuing fines to its drivers for using their phones as meters.

The complaint was sparked by an incident in Ponsonby yesterday.

Carl Thompson, who was travelling with his colleague Tim Phin, said a police officer pulled them over in yesterday morning, just 200 metres after they had been picked up by an Uber driver.

He said the officer asked them if it was an Uber car, and then told them the company was operating illegally in New Zealand and they needed to get out.

Mr Thompson said they then had no choice but to wander the streets to find a taxi, but it would not deter them from using the transport app in the future.

The pair reported the incident to Uber, which filed the complaint to the IPCA.

Uber spokesperson Katie Curran said the company was operating within the law and was fully licensed by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).

She said police have put Uber customers at risk by asking them to get out of the vehicle after the fines were issued, leaving them stranded at night with no other travel options to get home.

Ms Curran said Uber had contacted the NZTA and the Minister for Transport.

Police have refused to comment on the incident but said they had handed out several infringement notices to private hire drivers in recent weeks over a type of meter used.

Auckland City's acting district commander Inspector Jim Wilson said, in cases where vehicles have been stopped with passengers on board, police have either dropped them off in the central city where licensed taxis are available or have given them a ride home.

Taxi Federation executive director Robert Heale said the way Uber priced its fares was illegal and he was pleased police were taking action.

"They have been advised of this by the NZTA and basically now it's just that advice, or that request, has been ignored and the crackdown has started."

Mr Heale said the Uber drivers were liable to pay the fines, not the company.

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