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Uber blocks govt phones to avoid crackdown on drivers

ILLEGAL ride-sharing application UberX is thwarting transport inspectors targeting their drivers by blocking their mobile phones from accessing the service.

Emails obtained by the ABC's 7.30 program show frustrated inspectors are having to arrange to get new phones in a bid to crack down on the new rivals to Queensland's registered taxi service.

Drivers, who use their own private cars to offer the illegal service, are being fined up to $1700.

The fines are being paid not by the drivers, however, but by UberX.

The ABC reported that emails obtained under Queensland's Right To Information laws show Uber is tracking mobile phones used by authorities and suspending all corresponding Uber accounts.

"Due to blocking by Uber, only two covert rides were undertaken [today]," said Nick Marsden from the Department of Transport and Main Roads in an email to colleagues last August.

"Time was spent purchasing new credit cards, activating gmail accounts, and setting up two more phones.

"These phones are the last ones, [we] will be ordering additional units."

The Queensland Government says it has issued more than $260,000 worth of fines to 95 UberX drivers since the business began operating in Brisbane early last year.

Uber is backed by Google and investment banking giant Goldman Sachs, and was recently valued at well over $40 billion.

Frustrated taxi operators, some of whom have paid more than $250,000 in fees to operate, have called for a tougher approach, including stiffer penalties and mandatory court appearances for rebel UberX drivers.

 Queensland's Transport Minister Scott Emerson indicated the Government would not be changing its approach.

"I'm determined to ensure that we enforce the regulations we have in place. Those regulations are there to protect the safety of passengers," he said.