MRBTA staff warned of Air­tasker

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

The Mar­garet River-Bus­sel­ton Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion has cau­tioned two of its staff for seek­ing work as un­li­censed tour op­er­a­tors amid grow­ing con­cern about the rise of Air­tasker across the Capes re­gion.

Air­tasker, de­scribed as the “Airbnb for small jobs”, is fac­ing scru­tiny by WA’s Depart­ment of Trans­port, and Capes po­lice have re­cently in­ter­vened in cases in which driv­ers in Mar­garet River, Duns­bor­ough and Bus­sel­ton lacked the F-class li­cences needed to carry com­mer­cial pas­sen­gers.

Tour op­er­a­tors, who did not wish to be named for fear of reprisals, lashed the MRBTA for un­der­cut­ting mem­bers in the tour busi­ness, and said Air­tasker it­self needed greater reg­u­la­tion to avoid fu­ture ac­ci­dents for which driv­ers could face le­gal ac­tion.

“Very few tour com­pa­nies are even aware this is go­ing on on­line,” the op­er­a­tor said in re­la­tion to the rise of Air­tasker in the Capes.

“I’m sure some lo­cal busi­ness have gone bank­rupt with­out ever know­ing this is where the work had gone.”

The site now of­fered ded­i­cated pages for lo­cal­i­ties across the Capes, he said. “A few searchengi­ne op­ti­mi­sa­tion tricks, use the word ‘driver’ a lot, and they rank page one for driv­ing ser­vices,” he said. “(Air­tasker has) in­ten­tion­ally tar­geted sell­ing driv­ing ser­vices to cer­tain sub­urbs and do not re­quest any info from driv­ers other than a phone num­ber/email.”

MRBTA co-chief ex­ec­u­tive Steve Har­ri­son said se­nior man­agers had re­cently be­come aware two staff mem­bers had re­sponded to driv­ing re­quests on Air­tasker.

“As soon as it was ex­plained to them that this was counter to MRBTA pol­icy and not in the in­ter­ests of our mem­bers, these staff apol­o­gised and re­tracted the of­fers im­me­di­ately,” he said.

“These staff were un­aware that, had they pro­vided such ser­vices, they could have been act­ing il­le­gally and po­ten­tially been sub­ject to sig­nif­i­cant fines.” MRBTA had also re­cently reached out to tour op­er­a­tors ask­ing how the as­so­ci­a­tion could help them “in an in­creas­ingly com­plex busi­ness land­scape” cre­ated by Air­tasker and rideshar­ing ser­vices.

“Dig­i­tal plat­forms have made it eas­ier for vis­i­tors to ac­cess a range of driv­ing ser­vices, but also in­creased the risk of such ser­vices be­ing pro­vided by driv­ers with­out the re­quired au­tho­ri­sa­tions and in­sur­ance,” Mr Har­ri­son said.

“In ad­di­tion to warn­ing vis­i­tors of the risks of choos­ing un­li­censed driv­ing ser­vices, MRBTA be­lieves it is cru­cial to share pos­i­tive mes­sages with vis­i­tors to pro­mote trav­el­ling with fully li­censed, ac­cred­ited tour op­er­a­tors as the safest and most en­joy­able way to dis­cover the Mar­garet River re­gion.” The Depart­ment of Trans­port did not re­spond to in­quiries, but WA Po­lice con­firmed of­fi­cers had acted on driv­ers with­out F-class li­cences.

“In the event po­lice iden­tify a per­son driv­ing with­out the ap­pro­pri­ate class of driver’s li­cence, they will be is­sued the rel­e­vant traf­fic in­fringe­ment no­tice or charge, and if the mat­ter re­lates to the lack of an ‘F’ ex­ten­sion/en­dorse­ment, it will also be re­ferred to the Depart­ment of Trans­port for fur­ther re­view and as­sess­ment,” a spokesman said. Air­tasker was con­tacted for com­ment.

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