If you’ve flown to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport recently, you may have noticed the scourge of taxi touts that hang around the arrivals area. These touts offer unsolicited transportation services and are often unwilling to take “no” for an answer. Many are not registered taxi drivers, and some are even scamming unsuspecting tourists into paying too much for their ride.
Melbourne Airport bans touting, and there are even regular announcements made in the terminal not to use the unsolicited services of taxi touts. Yet, shockingly, taxi touting is currently legal in the state of Victoria. Melbourne Airport staff can only move the touters on; they cannot issue a fine so they often return.
In 2018, the Victorian state government removed penalties for taxi touts as part of its taxi and hire car industry reforms. These laws were intended to improve accessibility and passenger safety in the era of Uber and other ride-sharing services. But, for travellers at Melbourne Airport, the laws have created havoc.
It’s not just travellers that have had enough. Many Melbourne taxi drivers are angry that touts – as well as ride-sharing services in general – are making it more difficult for them to run their businesses.
The ABC spoke to one legitimate taxi driver that was choosing to tout in the arrivals hall instead of waiting in the regular taxi queue because he felt it was the only way to make money. This driver complained he would often wait three hours in the airport’s holding bay, only to pick up a $10-15 fare at the rank.
If there are so many cabs waiting to pick up fares at Melbourne Airport, it does make you wonder why it often takes such a long time to hail one from the official taxi rank.
In an ABC radio interview in July, Sandy Spanos from Victorian Taxi and Hire Car Families called on the Victorian government to reinstate anti-touting laws. The interviewer pointed out that some travellers decide to use the services of touts because the queue for a taxi from the rank is far too long. On this, Spanos rebuked “Well maybe Melbourne Airport should use all those people that they pay salaries to, to actually do their job. There are hundreds of taxis in the holding bay at the airport and they’re only releasing five at a time. Why is that? My husband goes to the airport daily… it is a joke.”
Melbourne taxi drivers skimming credit cards
Sadly, even some legitimate taxi drivers are scamming tourists in Melbourne. AFF member Lynda2475 has only used Melbourne airport taxis twice this year, but both times her credit card was skimmed and used to make fraudulent purchases.
First time was about 6 months ago, on coproate credit card which had only ever been used for hotel payment and taxis. CBA fraud team notified me immediately. New card issued.
Second time was last Friday night when myself and 3 colegaues took a taxi from the rank outsuide the office to the airport because we were in a hurry to make a flight (which was of course delayed). Firstly the driver tried to say it should be 2 fares because we dropped one colleague at Virgin before continuing to Qantas and we said no, then the bugger skimmed my card.
Westpac picked up the fraud straight away (last night) as that card is hardly used and ive lodged a complaint about the driver with GM Cabs. Westpac told me they have had significant issues with Melbourne Taxi drivers skimming cards (often using apple pay terminal), and that going forward if using a card in a taxi make sure I insert the chip and use a PIN i.e. never tap.
These incidents are being discussed on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Beware Melbourne Taxis skimming credit cards
Push to reform Victoria’s laws
On 13 November 2019, the Victorian state parliament will debate a private member’s bill introduced by Rod Barton to re-instate penalties for taxi touts. We hope it succeeds as the taxi touts are a scourge on Melbourne’s reputation. Not only are they placing tourists in danger, but they’re also harming legitimate taxi drivers that try to do the right thing.
A resumption of anti-touting laws in Victoria won’t solve all the problems with the taxi industry. But it would be a very welcome start.