Perth's taxi industry has warned New Year's Eve revellers not to be tempted to use drivers who are advertising their services online illegally, predicting most would be harbouring "devious intent".
The advertisements have become so prolific that the Department of Transport wrote to all WA high schools this year to warn students not to hire the unlicensed drivers as an alternative to limousines for school balls.
Yesterday, The West Australian was able to access several advertisements quickly on the Gumtree website that encouraged punters to avoid drink-driving or waiting in queues on the busiest night of the year on Tuesday.
Ben from Bayswater wrote that he was "polite and courteous", charged either by the hour or as a package for the entire evening and could supply a second driver to take his passenger's car home.
Another advertiser, David from Perth, said he was "a struggling student looking to put some petrol in the car" and, as a former bouncer, had a police clearance.
Brad from Ballajura said he was "just trying to make some money" and would charge $40-$50 for a Northbridge trip to or from Perth's northern suburbs.
He was unaware it was an offence under the Taxi Act for an unlicensed driver to carry passengers for hire and reward and would reconsider whether to go ahead with his offer.
Department of Transport acting transport services manager Michael D'Souza said the department would work with Gumtree this week to have the advertisements removed.
Licensed taxi drivers this year dobbed in four of their unlicensed competitors, who were issued $500 infringements.
"All taxis in Perth must be appropriately licensed and attached to a taxi dispatch service," Mr D'Souza said.
All licensed drivers went through rigorous screening, including assessments of their character and driving record.
Taxi Industry Council spokesman Kevin Foley said he suspected those posting the advertisements were not just trying to make a quick buck.
"I would say the majority of people who put up an ad like that would have a devious intent," he said.
"As far as security is concerned, the lack of safety would be the biggest threat, especially for young ladies."
Mr Foley bristled at the suggestion the online advertisements were capitalising on a lack of taxis in Perth.
"Approximately 500,000 people use a taxi each and every week and that criticism every year at this time of the year wears you down after a while," he said.