From Abu Dhabi to Zurich, Uber has found a market for connecting drivers to passengers looking for a ride through a GPS-based smartphone app. With operations in more than 220 cities worldwide, the popular car-sharing service is trying to establish a significant presence in Canada but continues to face a severe backlash because it ignores established taxi regulations including proper licencing of drivers.
On November 4, four cab companies filed for an injunction to block Uber from starting up in Vancouver claiming that the car-sharing service has already handed out technology and marketing materials to prospective drivers as it prepares to start operations. Back in 2012, Uber ran its black-car service in Vancouver for nearly six months but called it quits when the provincial transportation regulator imposed a minimum fare of $75 per ride.
The taxi firms are not acting alone. In October, the Vancouver city council issued a six-month moratorium on new taxi licences in an effort to quell the UberX service, its lowest-cost option employing everyday cars, from starting up. In addition, B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone has warned that plainclothes transit agents will be posing as potential customers to make sure taxis and operators are following licencing agreements and ensuring passenger safety. Fines up to $5,000 will be imposed for non-compliance.
UberX, which continues to operate in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, has repeatedly stated it is a technology company, not a taxi service and shouldn't be susceptible to taxi regulations. However, that explanation didn't take effect in Ottawa a few weeks ago when undercover city staff charged two Uber drivers for operating a cab without a taxi driver licence with each facing a $650 fine.
Joining that chorus of naysayers is Montreal's Mayor, Denis Coderre who's stated that UberX will be recognized as illegal because it is "in conflict with rules created by the Quebec Transportation Committee."
Even the Insurance Bureau of Canada is issuing warnings to the company and its drivers by stating that personal car insurance may not provide sufficient coverage in a collision especially if a passenger is injured, so commercial insurance coverage is necessary.
Uber has issued statements saying their drivers must be licenced, pass a criminal background check and have their own insurance coverage on their vehicles. In addition, "every ride on the UberX platform in Canada is backed by $5 million of contingent auto liability insurance, so drivers and the community at large can rest assured knowing that ride-sharing partners are covered by our insurance policy in addition to any insurance coverage maintained by the driver," stated Uber spokesperson Lauren Altmin, in a CBC news report.
It's unlikely that Uber will give up on Canada or their growing legion of supporters will stop requesting the service. Thousands have already signed a “Calgary Needs Uber” petition and a driver hiring blitz on Facebook is underway.