Jul 7, 2016 ยท 2 minutes

What with Uber now getting into bed with Russian oligarchs and the Saudi government, it's almost refreshing to see the company getting back to its petty lawbreaking roots.

So it was with a moist eye of nostalgia that I received an email from a subscriber in New Zealand alerting me to a story from Radio New Zealand headlined "Anger over Uber's advice for drivers to break law"


Drivers are required by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to have a passenger endorsement for their licence and a certificate of fitness for their car.

But Uber New Zealand head of operations Richard Menzies told RNZ the company would support drivers who hadn't got those requirements to continue to operate illegally.

Ben Wilson is a former software developer who became an Uber driver because it fitted in with his lifestyle: studying and looking after children.

He was a big fan of the alternative to traditional taxis, but he became concerned when Uber changed its rules in April, dropping some requirements for drivers and lowering fees.

He was shocked to hear Uber encouraging people to break the law, he said.

Mr Wilson, one gathers, is not a Pando subscriber.

Still, the details of the story are pretty alarming. In New Zealand, the NZTA requires a special (P) notation on  the licenses who wish to carry passengers for money. Getting this notation requires drivers to go through a vetting process to ensure they are not, in the case of some drivers NZTA apparently caught on Uber's system...

..a driver that we withdrew their passenger endorsement in 2014 because they had a serious medical condition, and they have now been identified as driving with Uber.

"Another case is where there is a driver who has a pending assault charge underway before the courts.

For its part, the company insists its own background checks (see Pandos ad nauseum) are perfectly sufficient and intends to continue advising its drivers to break the law.

It's not clear, however, that Uber drivers are willing to take that risk. As another driver told Radio NZ...

"They want to be the cool kids on the block and they're saying that it's innovative and we should all get behind it. And there is a certain merit to that.

"But what there isn't merit to is a company acting outside what governs New Zealand. Flagrantly disregarding our laws, undercutting all the marketplace at the expense of the individual contractors."