Uber driver’s landmark win paves way for service to operate freely in Victoria

A Melbourne Uber driver has won a landmark appeal which means the ride-sharing service can operate freely in Victoria.

Nathan Brenner was found guilty last year by a magistrate of two counts of operating a commercial passenger vehicle without a licence, and one count of driving a commercial passenger vehicle without driver accreditation.

The decision effectively outlawed Uber in the state.

But Victorian county court judge Geoffrey Chettle on Wednesday dismissed the charges and ordered the Taxi Services Commission to pay Brenner’s appeal costs.

Brenner appealed his convictions on the grounds the ride-sharing app was not covered by the “antiquated” legislation used to charge him.

The driver was fined $900 without conviction in December following a sting operation involving undercover taxi compliance officers.

Brenner, who used to manage rock groups Men at Work and Split Enz, was one of around a dozen UberX drivers charged by the Taxi Services Commission.

He was charged after an undercover officer used the Uber app to travel from the Hilton hotel to South Yarra.

But the court heard the $9 fare from that ride couldn’t be used as evidence in a criminal prosecution against Brenner.

The definitions in the legislation which apply to commercial passenger vehicles excluded Uber arrangements, his legal team argued.

It also tendered case law from 1929 involving omnibuses and fares paid in shillings, and other documents related to the Transport (Compliance and Miscellaneous) Act 1983, as part of the appeal.

The opposition transport spokesman, David Hodgett, says the government has wasted taxpayers’ money trying to fight Uber instead of regulating the service to provide industry certainty.

“This is not about taxis versus Uber but rather what ways we can get our city moving in the most efficient way,” he said.

Uber is delighted the judge found in favour of Brenner and has called for the government to now regulate the service.

“The time for excuses is over,” the Uber Victoria general manager, Matt Denman, said on Wednesday.

“The government needs to listen to the hundreds of thousands of Victorians who are choosing ride-sharing every week, and introduce sensible, safety-based regulations without delay.”

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