Melbourne Airport Taxi Touts Scamming, Harassing TouristsSomething needs to be done about the taxi touts harassing and scamming tourists arriving at Melbourne Airport.

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.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

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Charlie

YES! Thank you for this article. I have been complaining about this for months. Australia is not Bali and should not be heading in the direction of allowing solicitation when there is a clear process of obtaining a taxi. If anyone knows the best place to lodge a complaint about this, please let me know.

Peter

If the official taxi ranks were run more efficiently, then the opportunity for touts would be much reduced. I have often waited many minutes in the Qantas rank without a taxi in site, knowing there are hundreds waiting in the holding area. How does that occur?,

LeClair

WOW! African crime gangs, mass thefts, taxi touting…What is happening to dear old lovely Melbourne? Law and order, or just first world order seem to be being replaced with third world anarchy.

Chris G Stone

Hi, I flew to Melbourne regularly and always got the bus into the city, It was just as fast as the taxis and dropp off was central. No worries about being scammed. I find taxi drivers these days are a different breed than they were 20 years ago.

Walter Plinge

How can you scam tap & pay? That uses a one-off generated fake number with no link to the actual card.

Charlie

It sounds like they use Apple Pay and just tap the card twice, or something like that.

David

Normally, I would be supporting such a ban, but based on my own experience I am guilty as charged.

I have waited in long queues so often, I jump at the chance of being escorted by a smartly dressed young man, to a nice car where I am not regaled with racist rants or feel as though I am an extra in a formula one race.

Melbourne airport fail on so many issues I wouldn’t support much of anything they suggest. I have submitted many complaints and gave up after being ignored for so long.

John

David, I couldn’t agree more. I had always tried to toe the line with taxis at Melbourne Airport, but the final straw for me was when two taxis pulled up in front on of me and the drivers had physical altercation over my fare. I requested the taxi security officer to step in to sort out which taxi I should get into, but he did nothing. One of the drivers took my suitcase and threw it into his boot, before pointing at the passenger door and said get in. I disrespectfully declined his disrespectful behaviour, took my bag out of… Read more »

Charlie

I don’t see how a tout is a guarantee of a better driver, if anything they are less ethical people. But, I guess you get the chance to chat with them before you decide. Still, anyone can tout they don’t even need a taxi licence so it opens up more scamming potential.

John

See and speak to the driver, negotiate a price, it’s nearly always $85 to CBD, I fail to see a down side, 9 out of 10 drivers are looking for repeat business, it’s not in their interest to screw you over, if they want a return trip back to the airport, but I’m sure it has happened.

Charles

They definitely need to address the lack of getting taxis from hold to the pickup area. T4 is quickest way to get a lift I find

Wadem

Maybe they should have an Airport rail link…..oh!