Public at risk from rogue tour operators

Image by Shutterstock.
Image by Shutterstock.

South West tour operators have warned it is only a matter of time before a rogue operator is involved in an accident causing injury to the public.

Cellar d'Or Tours owner Geoff Hard said the industry was plagued by rogue operators who were unlicensed and uninsured to transport paid passengers.

Mr Hard said licensed operators were required to pay annual fees to the state government, along with regular vehicle inspections and additional third party insurance.

"It's a real problem now, it always has been, but it has now been exacerbated by Airtasker and is happening now in Margaret River," he said.

Airtasker is a website where people can list their service for a price or accept jobs from people who post they require a particular service, such as a driver, along with a quote they are willing to pay.

"There is a real risk to the public and touring public, they are not covered by third party insurance or public liability if anything happens to them when they are out on these tours.

"These people are hurting us and we are really sick of it.

"Why should we pay more than $5,000 a year in licensing and insurance when the government is just going to turn their backs on these operators."

Transport minister Rita Safioti said the issue of unauthorised charter vehicles was something she talked to authorised operators about and asked the Department of Transport to look into.

Ms Safioti said charter operators were required by law to use their authorisation number or name in advertising so this could be checked.

"In the South West, the DoT is identifying ongoing instances of the use of social media or other websites to advertise unauthorised charter services," she said.

"I have been advised that penalties will be applied where warranted and where the individuals can be identified. DoT continues to monitor and engage with sites where this may be occurring.

A Department of Transport spokesperson said unauthorised operators undermined legitimate operators and put passengers and the public at risk.

The spokesperson said penalties for a person providing an unauthorised charter service could include a maximum fine of $40,000 for an unauthorised on-demand booking service or $12,000 for an unauthorised passenger transport vehicle

"Driving a passenger transport vehicle without a F or T endorsement is an offence currently administered by police," the spokesperson said.

Any instances of unauthorised charter services being advertised on social media identified by members of the public can be reported to on-demand@transport.wa.gov.au.

Airtasker were contacted for comment but did not respond in time for publication.