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Drivers warned off taxi app
New player: GoCatch chief executive Ned Moorfield. Picture: Dione Davidson/The West Australian

Singaporean-owned Swan Taxis has used standover tactics to threaten its drivers not to use new independent taxi smartphone apps that are beginning to penetrate the Perth market.

In its Cabbie newsletter for drivers last year, Swan Taxis said goCatch, an app which books drivers independently of its lucrative network, was "illegal" and threatened action if drivers signed up to it.

Sydney-based goCatch, backed by heavy hitters such as billionaire James Packer, is part of a wider push from independent start-ups such as the Google-backed Uber and Ingogo, which are looking to bring their products to Perth.

However, the apps hit roadblocks in Swan Taxis' stranglehold over the Perth market and State Government restrictions.

In its newsletter in April last year when goCatch emerged in Perth, Swan Taxis said the app did not have approval to be used in the industry.

GoCatch, which has always been legal, books drivers when they have "down time" and are not performing jobs on the Swan or any other taxi network.

"It (goCatch) does not provide security for either the driver or customer," the newsletter said. "Actions will be taken against any drivers found using this illegal network application."

Swan Taxis Perth-based director Kevin Foley said the newsletter was a mistake and no action had been taken against drivers using goCatch.

But he maintained apps such as goCatch provided an unaccountable environment for customers.

GoCatch chief executive Ned Moorfield, who met Government representatives recently, said Swan Taxis had been using the tactics to protect its monopoly.

He said all goCatch drivers were registered drivers and online real time feedback on the app made people safer with goCatch.

Swan Taxis represents about 90 per cent of the 2300 cabs on Perth roads and in 2012 it reported $19.2 million in revenue.

Google-backed Uber is different in that it uses private charter vehicles booked through an app at a slight premium to taxi fares.

Uber Australia spokesman David Rohrsheim said it has been pushing to bring the app to Perth for a year but the law for a $60 minimum fee for charter vehicles for short fares was in its way.

A Department of Transport spokeswoman said it was in talks with Uber and goCatch.