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New on Uber in Alberta

Uber Rival TappCar Launching March 14, and it’s Legal

A new company that emerged through Uber’s missed opportunity to operate legally in Edmonton says it will be launching on March 14. TappCar announced its presence last month as U.S. ride-sharing giant Uber pulled out of the Edmonton market while it awaits auto insurance clearance in the city.
The company said at the time that it hopes to fill the void left by Uber, while also taking some of the company’s passengers. While Uber has courted controversy with local municipalities and the traditional taxi industry, TappCar says it is different as it is a mix between a taxi and ride-sharing services.

“It will be very competitive with the Uber and the traditional taxi services,” TappCar’s Pascal Ryffel said last month. “We’re really hoping that people get behind us.”

Indeed, while TappCar is tiny compared to the $40 billion valued Uber, it perhaps offers a more appealing services, especially for authorities. The company works like Uber, using a smartphone application to connect passengers with freelance drivers. The difference, and likely to be key for regulators, is that the company requires its drivers to have both a Class 4 driver’s license and commercial auto insurance.

In this respect TappCar drivers are taxi drivers in all but name, and already the service is being promoted as a way for traditional cabbies to earn extra money.

“I think people are interested in our business model because it’s a local company that is following all the rules,” said TappCar spokesperson Pascal Ryffel.

Mohamed Sidahmed, a former Uber driver, said he has turned to TappCar because of the company’s legal position in Alberta.

“I see the difference that we had to do a criminal check and lots of training, and lots of safety,” he said.

Sidahmed pointed to Uber’s future, where its drivers will also need criminal checks and class 4 permits, which cost him a total of $150. While TappCar is appealing, Uber has a dedicated consumer-base and many consumers simply do not care that the company was operating unregulated in Edmonton and beyond.

While Uber has now left the city, it will likely be back and in a legal capacity during the summer, providing TappCar with huge competition. It is clear that the sharing market is kicking into gear, Uber will not have things all its own way, and Canada simply has to adopt the industry as it is coming either way.

Uber Forced to Play Waiting Game in Edmonton

Uber has said it will pull out of Alberta on Tuesday if the provincial government does not help the company to become legal in Edmonton. The city voted to legalize the UberX service last month, but Uber has been able to meet the agreed criteria for legalization because Albertan authorities will not amend bylaws to accommodate the company.

The stipulations involved UberX drivers agreeing to specific licenses, vehicle checks, and to having a sufficient and legal auto insurance policy. The latter of those presented Uber with the biggest challenge, but the company says it found a private insurance company willing to offer a policy. It is though that Intact Insurance was the provider, finalizing a collaboration started with Uber late last year.

“The insurance policy that we have is a commercial policy that works for ride sharing and quite frankly, doesn’t add any material costs to drivers,” Ramit Kar, Uber Alberta’s general manager, said.

Alberta originally said that it could not guarantee that Uber would receive its auto insurance coverage for the March 1 date which Edmonton set for legalizing the company. The finance ministry in the province released a statement last week that said:

“The Superintendent of Insurance has been involved in constructive discussions with Intact insurance,” the statement said. “The issue remains under review and no agreement been reached.”

Now Alberta has put a firmer timeframe on when a bylaw to accommodate Uber will be ready, with Transportation Minister Brian Mason saying the province had rejected Uber’s request to have the bylaw ready for March.

“It’s our position that people driving vehicles for commercial purposes are not using their vehicles for the same purposes as those with a Class 5 license,” Mason said.

“The bottom line is that the Class 4 requirement is essential for the safety of both passengers and drivers.”
While Toronto voted to regulate Uber, the company continues to operate while Ontario’s largest city prepares those bylaws. It is unlikely the U.S. ride-sharing service will continue in Alberta and has already said it could pull out of the market this week. Even if the city amends bylaws, it is not clear Uber would accept the changes. In Calgary last week the company rejected accommodating bylaw changes and decided to pull out of the city.

Uber has requested that the city of Edmonton postpone its bylaw until June 1st, which is after the province says it will have prepared a bylaw. Edmonton authorities have yet to respond.

Uber Rival Wants to Pounce on Uber Edmonton Departure

Uber says it will be pulling out of the Alberta market after failing to get a bylaw amendment from the province that would allow the company to become legal in Edmonton. However, while the industry leading ride-sharing company is on the verge of leaving the province, another smaller firm is looking to steal some of Uber’s thunder.
A bylaw passed in Edmonton last month stated that UberX drivers would be legal if they had a bi-annual license, vehicle checks, and sufficient auto insurance. The company has since been unable to secure any of those things, with Alberta authorities saying any bylaw amendment is unlikely to happen until the summer.

As a response Uber is suggesting it will leave the province on Tuesday, Mar 1, which is when the Edmonton bylaw comes into effect. However, one company can benefit from Uber’s departure, with TappCar saying it is ready to take some of Uber’s Alberta market.

Like the UberX service, TappCar allows passengers to connect with freelance drivers via a smartphone application, and the company says it is positing itself for the lucrative Edmonton market.

“It will be very competitive with the Uber and the traditional taxi services,” TappCar’s Pascal Ryffel said. “We’re really hoping that people get behind us.”

It is unclear whether TappCar has the desired criteria to appease the city of the province, and the company is almost certainly going to be subject to the same bylaw rules as Uber.

Uber to spread wings in Canada during 2016

Uber has swept up plenty of interest in 2015, but the controversial company is not quite done yet and if 2015 was the year in which Uber fell into the minds of Canadians, 2016 could be when the company takes the country by storm.

At the moment Uber is known for its UberX ride sharing service that lets users select nearby drivers to pick them up pre-paid, a sort of 21st century take on the traditional taxi idea. However, taxi drivers have not welcomed this new dawn with open arms and see Uber as a genuine threat to their livelihood and industry. Protests and government attempts to shut Uber down have followed, but the company has persisted in Canada and continues to grow and slowly find regulatory support.

Uber To Spread Wings In Canada During 2016
Uber To Spread Wings In Canada During 2016

While other industries may have looked on with sympathy for taxi drivers, it seems Uber’s cross hairs are not just on the peer to peer driving sector. The company is not content with seismically changing the taxi industry and will now move to food delivery, carpooling, and health care.

Of course, food delivery and carpooling seem like natural progressions for Uber, but health care ambitions will rightly raise some eyebrows.

“Uber’s goal was, and is, to be the world’s most powerful logistics company,” said Aron Solomon, the innovation lead for the MaRS’s LegalX team, which connects lawyers and technologists. “Anything that can be delivered, will.”

Speaking to CTV, Solomon added: “So if (Uber) has food, people are going to want food from Uber,” he said.

UberEats is already in Toronto and in many aspects mirrors Uber’s driver sharing company in that it allows users to see a list of meals in nearby locations and have them delivered within 10 minutes. UberEats even lets users choose food from over 100 restaurants in Canada’s largest city and have those genuine menu items delivered within 45 minutes.

Toronto is ground zero from many of Uber’s enterprises and the city became the first in Canada to vote on regulating the UberX service. Barhop is another idea that is currently getting a trial outing in Toronto, allowing up to five commuters to carpool into various Toronto financial and commercial hubs for a flat rate of $3.50 or $4.50.

New app gives taxi drivers Uber like service

A new app being developed by taxi drivers aims to combat the rise of Uber in Canada, a clear case of if you can’t beat them you should join them. Taxi associations and drivers across the country have fought the rise of the Uber X ride sharing application that they see as a threat to the taxi industry. While governments also combat Uber, increasingly the company is being accepted and regulations considered for its operation.

New App Gives Taxi Drivers Uber Like Service
New App Gives Taxi Drivers Uber Like Service

After protests, legal battles, and consumer warnings, taxi drivers are left with options. However, a new app called The Ride aims to take the fight back to Uber’s doorstep by offering a very similar service to consumers.

Like the Uber X service, customers sign up to the app with a profile and use their device GPS to locate and hail taxi vehicles, with the price and waiting times given before getting into the vehicle. Unlike Uber, The Ride will also offer consumer options in the form of information on other public transport with prices and wait times. There is a $2 charge that is prefixed for using the service to hail a taxi.

“There have been a lot of players in the taxi industry saying this is needed as part of a solution to compete against Uber,” said Nick Quain, CEO of Toronto-based CellWand Communications, the company behind the app.

“What we did is combine that with transit options. So that in Edmonton you’re talking about bus and LRT,” said Quain. “We’re really an aggregation of all your transportation options.”

Just two weeks ago Downtown Toronto was brought to a standstill by protesting taxi drivers, while it was a similar story in Edmonton in April. However, the protests are thought to have backfired in the consumer space as customers continue to embrace the UberX model despite the fact it is operating in Canada illegally.

Toronto became the first city to vote for regulating Uber, but the changes are not expected until next year, while the city promised more traditional taxis and easier routes to licenses in a bid to protect the industry. Arguably The Ride and any future apps like it pave the best path for the taxi industry in the long term as instead of combating Uber taxi services will actually be using the model to enhance their own business.

Injunction stops Uber operations in Calgary

Alberta is continuing to take the fight to Uber and the Court of Queen’s Bench for the province this week imposed an injunction against drivers working for the UberX drive sharing service in the city of Calgary. However, the injunction is only temporary and it is unlikely to halt UberX operations in the city.

Indeed, Calgary is just the latest city in Canada, and indeed around the world, to post strong opposition, the question now is whether Albertan authorities can continue to resist the company or whether it will need to finally accept the drive sharing service that has been deemed an illegal quasi-taxi service. Certainly, in other area, Toronto most notably, early opposition to Uber has fallen to an inevitability that the service is here to stay and needs to be regulated.

UberX Insurance
UberX Insurance

Where Calgary’s position on that is remains unclear, but for the time being the province of Alberta and the city are pushing back against Uber. Justice G. H. Poelman placed an injunction that will run until Dec. 17th and in the interim period the City of Calgary is expected to pursue making the ban permanent, although it seems apparent that Uber will continue operations in the city regardless.

Calgary officials say that the UberX service is in violation of the Livery Transport Bylaw and is seeking the company to be banned from the city. It named 57 people as drivers known to work for Uber when seeking the temporary injunction that was imposed today.

“This is recognition that private for-hire vehicles operating under the Uber umbrella are breaching The City’s bylaw and they have been ordered to stop,” said Calgary based lawyer Colleen Sinclair. “This pulls a number of vehicles that are not appropriately insured, licensed or inspected off the road and prevents them from offering a potentially unsafe service.”

Uber has only actually been operating in Calgary since October 15th, and so far some 19 drivers have been charged for driving for UberX. The city has also been urging consumers to avoid UberX cars and drivers for the company to consider the auto insurance implications of driving for a company with personal coverage.

Canada Competition Bureau says authorities should accept Uber

Taxi associations across Canada are waging a war against Uber Technologies Inc. and more specifically its UberX driver sharing service. It is a war that is slowly being lost and it seems Uber has another ally in the form of Canada’s Competition Bureau, the watchdog saying that governments and taxi authorities around the country need to accept the competition Uber provides.

UberX Insurance
UberX Insurance

The Competition Bureau says governmental authorities that control and regulate taxi associations need to be more creative in the face of new competition from Uber and similar companies. Municipalities should look to find ways of regulating UberX and seeks methods of relaxing regulations placed upon taxis and issuing more licenses for drivers.

The view of the Canada Competition Bureau may prove to be controversial, after-all the watchdog is saying local governments should accept Uber, but does not factor in that Uber has been operating in Canada illegally and against the wishes of local authorities.

“When new regulations are needed, they should be limited to meeting legitimate policy objectives, like protecting the safety of passengers and drivers,” the bureau said.

Other things the watchdog suggest are:

  • Ease price controls, such as regulated taxi fares, to allow fares to be adjusted during periods of varying demand, such as weekends, evenings and bad weather.
  • Eliminate restrictions on the number of taxi plates issued and move to a system where additional qualified drivers may operate as vehicles?for?hire.
  • Allow all drivers to respond to street hails, regardless of whether they work for a taxi company or ride?sharing service, unless there is a compelling policy reason not to do so.
  • Provide incentives to drivers to operate accessible vehicles in areas where consumers are under?served.

The City of Toronto has recently voted to regulate the UberX service, but the company continues to operate illegally in the city as regulations will not be in place until 2016. Across Canada it is a similar story with cities accepting that the rise of Uber is inevitable, and the issue left is how authorities will protect the traditional taxi industry.

Taxi associations and unions representing taxi drivers have waged a war with Uber, with the Ontario Association seeking a temporary injunction against UberX. However, increasingly it seems that Canada, while not embracing Uber, is accepting the company and others like it, so how authorities will aid taxi services will be important. More licenses issued will mean more drivers and taxis on the road, an attempt by provincial governments to make taxis competitive.

Calgary takes fight to ban Uber to the courts

While Uber is prominent in many Canadian cities, and in some (Toronto and Edmonton) motions have been set to regulate the service, places like Calgary are just getting acquainted with UberX.

The peer-to-peer drive sharing service has courted controversy wherever it goes and while the path of Uber in Calgary and indeed Canada seems ultimately inevitable, the city is ready to dig in and fight. The inevitability comes from the fact that Uber has resisted virtually all previous attempts to close its UberX service down and as it has economic benefits and appears to be in Canada to stay, governments are expected to eventually embrace and regulate it.

UberX Insurance
UberX Insurance

Regulation is the keyword as the quasi-taxi service currently operates in the country without regulation, essentially breaking the law, while operators of Uber vehicles are working without sufficient commercial auto insurance. Until any regulations are in place (close in Toronto, far away in Calgary) then Uber should not be operating in Canada.

Yet, the company is still here and nearly a month after warning consumers not to adopt the service, the City of Calgary is seeking a court issued order that stops UberX operatives working in the city. Those caught in violation of the potential injunction can be arrested by police, fined, and even placed in jail. The court application names 57 drivers, while also including “all other persons who operate as an Uber driver in the City of Calgary.”

The city wants a court declaration the drivers “are offering and operating their personal motor vehicles for hire or fee without a valid … licence.”

Those who breach the injunction “may be arrested by officers of the Calgary Police Service and brought before this court to show why they should not be cited in contempt,” the draft reads.

The city says it is pursuing the order because it is concerned that drivers do not understand that their personal auto insurance does not cover them. Without sufficient coverage they will not be covered by Uber’s own $5 million liability policy either, which stipulates that operatives must have valid commercial auto insurance to operate with the service. However, despite this stipulation, Uber still allows drivers to sign up with their personal policies.

In October the City of Calgary warned consumers to avoid using Uber vehicles, stating:

“The City advises citizens that there are risks associated with participating in private for-hire vehicle services such as Uber,” the city said in a statement. “These risks include the fact that the vehicles are not inspected by the City and the drivers are not licensed by the City. There is also a risk that drivers, passengers and any third party involved in an accident with one of these vehicles may not receive insurance coverage or may receive only limited coverage.”

Insurance Bureau of Canada urges Uber support

Uber is still courting controversy in Canada, but it also seems as though the drive sharing service is starting to gain some allies in the country. Not least from the insurance industry, which is now moving to implement Uber into its thinking and even the Insurance Bureau of Canada is on board.

Insurance Bureau of Canada urges Uber support
Insurance Bureau of Canada urges Uber support

The IBC is giving its backing to Uber and says it is even doing some unofficial lobbying of sorts by trying to convince provinces around the country to adopt laws to regulate Uber and find auto insurance solutions for the UberX service. On both fronts there has been major rejections to Uber in Canada, and only now are opinions starting to soften and progress is being made.

UberX drivers operate as quasi taxi operators and are not subject to any current laws or regulations, which means they operate outside legal parameters. This has put the service at odds with governments and traditional taxi unions, both of which have repeatedly tried to ban Uber outright. Recently there has been a different stance, with the City of Toronto voting to introduce regulations for UberX and Intact Insurance confirming it is working on an Uber specific auto insurance policy.

Both of those moves have been widely praised and lawmakers, economic experts, and insurance industry insiders have all said more provinces should follow Toronto’s lead and more insurance companies should look to creating Uber policies. The Insurance Bureau of Canada getting involved, seemingly on the side of Uber, suggests that the industry is now gearing to back Uber fully in the near future.

In Ontario, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario [FSCO] is “looking at the insurance issue [and] options concerning how Uber drivers would be insured and whether that would differ from existing practices.”

While steps have been made in Ontario, other provinces are still left undecided. The Province of Alberta has said that its decision has still not been made and that it is at least possible that the government will side with traditional taxi drivers and seek to ban Uber. While that is very much a possibility in Alberta and across the country, it is becoming increasingly clear that Uber is here to stay and provinces will have to yield sooner or later.

The IBC is urging those regions of the country that are still holding out to reconsider and help insurance companies to draw up policies and in turn bring more legality and regulation to the UberX service.