WA’s transport minister was surprised to hear Google-backed driver hire firm Uber has launched in Perth and is investigating its regulatory compliance.

The launch of a Google-backed driver hire company in Perth has caught the West Australian transport minister Dean Nalder off guard.

Taxi and hire-car booking app Uber first launched in Sydney in 2012 and has since expanded to Melbourne and Brisbane.

Mr Nalder said he had a preliminary meeting with the firm about three weeks ago but was surprised to hear it launched in Perth on Wednesday.

Uber’s new feature that lets regular motorists drive passengers around for a fee has caused a stir among east coast regulators and is also concerning the WA minister.

“I am a little bit surprised – we weren’t aware that they were (launching) so I’ve asked the department to investigate that they are complying with the law,” Mr Nalder told Fairfax radio on Thursday.

“I don’t know the basis on which they’ve launched.”

Mr Nalder said his primary concern was passenger safety.

The secondary concern was driver training and standards, and whether they were being treated appropriately by the company.

“They need the same standards as a taxi driver,” he said.

While the WA Department of Transport is looking into the matter, Mr Nalder urged passenger caution.

“You use it at your own risk,” he said.

Mr Nalder also said it was important to ensure any new entrant to the driver hire market didn’t “create an uneven playing field”.

Uber’s head of public policy for the Asia Pacific region Jordan Condo said the company had held constructive talks with the WA transport ministry for the past eight months.

“We appreciate their efforts to encourage innovation, increase competition and improve consumer safety,” Mr Condo said.

He said the UberBLACK service, launched in Perth on Wednesday, involved professional drivers in commercially licensed and commercially insured chartered service vehicles.

“In less than 24 hours, the response to UberBLACK has been fantastic and we look forward to providing more Perthians with a classy, safe and reliable ride,” he said.