Uber goes on an anti-regulation offensive in New Zealand

Uber sent me this email today (they also presumably sent it to all other people who are registered Uber users in New Zealand):

Dear Harry,

Recently, we have seen media coverage involving a police officer stopping Uber partner-drivers and removing riders, in some cases leaving them with no option but to walk home in the dark. This is unjustified and irresponsible. Uber has submitted a formal complaint to the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

These events have been based on the NZTA’s narrow interpretation of legislation created at a time when technology like Uber’s didn’t exist. Vested interests have also been spreading misinformation designed to scare riders and bully drivers to protect a small group of large and powerful taxi incumbents.

Uber partners in New Zealand are licensed, safe and provide a legal service in the best interests of riders and drivers. You can read more about the processes behind our operations here. We are proud to be creating new economic opportunities for licensed and responsible drivers, and bringing much needed competition to New Zealand.



Don’t let a few loud voices in the taxi industry bully their way into preventing you from choosing Uber. Whether taxi or Uber is your preference, you have the right to choose.

Craig Foss is the Minister responsible for these outdated regulations and he needs to hear the same feedback we do everyday. Things like..

“My Uber is 40% cheaper than a taxi, and cleaner, safer and more reliable.”

“I don’t pay a credit card surcharge with Uber.”

“Ubers are more reliable and pick me up faster.”

“I can rate the driver.”

“I feel safer in an Uber.”

….What Uber experience will you share?

Thank you for your continued support. We’re working hard with our partner-drivers to ensure Uber is the safest and most reliable ride in town.

Uber on,

The team at Uber NZ

I’m interested by their portrayal of themselves as “legal”. It was always going to be a high-stakes strategy to say “this law is old, and the regulator is intepreting it wrong”. While the law might need to be changed, it’s not a great surprise that if Uber chooses to flout it they’re going to get shut down. I’ll be interested to see whether their PR offensive gets any response from the Government.

But overall, I think this is a very interesting narrative they’re trying to present, of the underdog Uber versus the big powerful Taxi union. (Also of technological disruption versus antiquated ways of doing things.) But that narrative overlooks the fact that Uber is rapidly-growing international corporation, not a small underdog. Once their disruption of the taxi industry is inevitably complete, we’ll probably have an atomized, deunionised taxi workforce. As I’ve argued before, we need to think about the social implications of embracing Uber as a society – what will the convenience ultimately cost us?

Update: Well that was extroadinarily fast. The Transport Minister, Craig Foss, sent out a press release at 4:14 pm saying he’s asked officials to review the legal status of small passenger services, to be finished by mid-2015. I was wondering the same thing as Keith Ng:

Further reading

The debate on Twitter is already in full swing:

New Zealand First also put out a press release (“An Uber Rip Off for Taxpayers“) pointing out that Uber is being challenged overseas for how little tax it pays. Internet New Zealand also wrote a blog post praising the Government for moving quickly in reviewing the legislation.

Last updated 22 January 2015

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