Category Archives: Uber

Uber Campaign Pushes for Positive Regulations in Toronto

Toronto’s city licensing staff are gearing up to reveal its regulations that will be aimed at accommodating ride-sharing companies such as Uber. The U.S. company knows that for the most part it has customers on its side, so has started a PR campaign that is aimed at showing the city council that Torontonians want the service in their city.
Uber-App
On Tuesday the company launched an online petition which will be used to press councilors into supporting ride-sharing regulations. However, as other Canadian cities have shown, not any old regulations will suit Uber and the company is pushing for “smart” and “progressive” laws.

It is a make or break time for Uber in Toronto. The city voted last year to draw up regulations and amend bylaws to adopt ride-sharing services, but the city’s regulations could be ignored by Uber if the company does not agree with the changes. If that scenario unfolds then the company could leave Toronto entirely, as it has recently done in Calgary under similar circumstances.

The precedence for adopting Uber is in Edmonton, where the city drew up new regulations and the company agreed to them. Indeed, Uber would already be legal in the city if it was not for an auto insurance issue that has halted Uber’s legalization until the summer.

Toronto would face no such auto insurance problems as Aviva Canada recently debuted a new coverage that offers a simple and affordable policy for drivers of ride-sharing companies. The city is likely to mirror Edmonton’s regulations closely, which would mean vehicle checks, background checks for drivers, and Class 4 licenses for drivers.

Uber has not said specifically what it expects from the Toronto regulations, but the company has pointed out that it hopes the city makes it possible for the company to work in the city and is not merely closing the door.

Of the new media campaign and petition, Uber’s general manager for Canada, Ian Black, said that the UberX service aids in getting transport support to areas of the city that have been “previously ignored by transit and by traditional transportation options.”

“We’ve heard quite good feedback, we’ve heard that city council does have an appetite to move forward and create positive regulations.”

The big question is, would Uber pull out of Toronto if regulations are not what it expects? The company pulled out of Calgary, but has stuck around in other cities and has shown that it will support drivers even if they are unregulated and uninsured. Toronto is the most populated city in Canada, so Uber leaving would hurt the company, even if only from a marketing point of view.

Black says it is “too soon” to discuss whether the company would leave city, but perhaps it is worth asking if Toronto can afford to ignore the economic opportunities presented by the sharing industry?

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.
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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.

Nova Scotia Latest to Consider Uber Regulations

Cities around Canada are warming to the idea that Uber can provide an economical boost, even though actually integrating and regulating the company has remained elusive nationwide. The latest to explore the prospect of Uber and other sharing companies such Airbnb, is Nova Scotia.
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The word out of Halifax is that the province is ready to think about adopting Uber, although a review of the company and how it can be worked into current legislature will happen first. It is a stark contrast to Uber’s arrival in Canada, which was met with cities largely attempting to oust the U.S. ride-sharing provider. More recently, cities are considering the economic benefits of sharing companies and are looking for ways to work with them.

Nova Scotia describes Uber as a disruptive technology, but the province is considering whether to regulate the company or not. Tourism CEO Martha Stevens told the legislature committee this week that the government will first review the impact sharing companies will have on the economy. She stressed that while Uber is on the agenda, the province is putting the emphasis on Airbnb.

“Our work has just really started … and we don’t want to presume there will be further regulation,” said Stevens.

“It’s still only early days, but we want to make sure we’re doing the right things for visitors to Nova Scotia, but also for businesses that are operating here today.

“This is not going away, and we want to understand and enhance some of the new technologies because consumers are demanding it.”

Uber has struggled to reach terms with local governments around the country about how it should be regulated, and has been forced to leave some markets, while still operating illegally in others. Last month, Aviva Canada launched an auto insurance policy that covers ride-sharing operatives in Ontario, with expansion around the country likely during the coming months.

Uber Forced to Pull Out of Calgary

Canadian provinces seem to be going one of two ways. Some are slowly starting to adopt Uber, while others are ramping up efforts to dismiss the ride-sharing service from their municipalities. Edmonton voted to legalize the service, Vancouver has managed to keep Uber from the city entirely, while Calgary became one of the few to kick Uber out this week.
Uber Calgary
The city voted on a new bylaw that Uber said would mean the company leaving the province if the law was enacted. The Calgary city council made the vote and the result of 14-1 in favor of the bylaw meant that Uber will keep its promise and will stop operating in the city.

Uber’s general manager for Alberta, Ramit Kar, called it a “really unfortunate day” and said drivers working for the company are the victims, confirming that the company simply cannot operate in the province anymore.

Coun. Evan Woolley was the only one to vote against the bylaw, and he says the city was very close to coming up with a workable solution that could have meant Uber becoming legal in the city. Instead a solution could not be worked, and Woolley states:

“I think the regulation changes and the new bylaw gets us 90 per cent there,” Woolley said Tuesday. “There were a couple of really critical touch points and I made attempts to amend the bylaw and deal with those and it didn’t pass.”

Woolley adds that Uber leaves the city because the bylaw simply places too many restrictions on ride-sharing services, but he said he will continue to press for an amendment to the bylaw. However, he also thinks the company will be willing to re-enter negotiations with the council and is unlikely to pull out of the market entirely.

“It doesn’t matter what bylaws we put in place, if drivers don’t sign up to be a driver or to use this system, it doesn’t matter,” Woolley said. “If the barriers are too great then people won’t join.”

Quebec Assembly Meets to Talk Uber

Quebec is the latest city to consider the legalization of Uber, or to at least try to find a path to move towards regulating sharing companies. Canada’s largest province has started hearings at the national assembly to discuss the future of the traditional taxi industry in the province in the face of competition from UberX as well as tackling ride-sharing companies in general.

No firm decisions are expected to be made, but still taxi drivers are going to protest the talks as they seek to fight against the Uber service that they deem as providing unfair competition.
Uber Quebec
Transport Minister Jacques Daoust has said that the province will have to consider the impact of Uber, but the company is inevitable in Quebec so regulations need to be found. As in other provinces, taxi drivers in Quebec are opposed to the arrival of Uber and are seeking a permanent injunction against the company.

Associations representing the traditional taxi service say Uber provides unfair competition as drivers do not need to go through expensive licensing processes like taxi drivers. Regulations could solve that, but Quebec has yet to even talk about changing current legislation to allow for ride sharing companies.

Uber’s defense has always been that it is a technology company and not a taxi service, so it should not be subject to the same regulations. However, that has not gone over well with Canadian authorities, and the U.S. based company will have to concede and allow itself to be regulated like a traditional taxi service.

That happened in Edmonton last month when the city voted to legalize the UberX service. As part of the arrangement, Uber agreed to a flat fare rate, licensing regulations for its drivers, and the stipulation that all UberX drivers must require sufficient auto insurance. That latter point is still a problem for Uber as Aviva Canada’s Ontario exclusive ride-sharing auto insurance policy is not available nationwide as yet.

British Columbia interested in regulating sharing companies

Canadian provinces are increasingly turning their attention to Uber, with British Columbia the latest to voice its interest in the ride-sharing company. Peter Fassbender, the minister for community, sport and culture in B.C. said on Thursday that the government is looking into the ride-sharing economy, which includes companies like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb.
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That opened the door to such companies being regulated in the province, something that has been hard to achieve in other Canadian regions. Fassbender said he would need to listen to arguments from all sides before deciding what B.C. will do in the future.

“Before we even articulate what that is, is we want to respect all of the parties by hearing from them and getting their input,” Fassbender told CBC News Thursday.

Taxi unions have been the most common opposition to the UberX ride-sharing service, seeing the company as an illegal competitor that endangers the traditional taxi industry. Fassbender said he will meet with taxi industry representatives, but he is unlikely to find much support for Uber, even if the company is to be regulated in B.C.

British Columbia has so far been successful in keeping Uber out of the province, something that has proved more difficult for other municipalities around the country. However, Fassbender said if B.C. decides to regulate sharing companies properly, it is unlikely to happen any time soon.

“It’s not going to happen in this session,” he said. “But the work that we do to lay the groundwork for the future is the important part of it.”

Uber has recently been legalized in Edmonton if the company can adhere to several stipulations put in place by the city. The vote has been widely welcomed and is now an example of how Canadian cities can adopt Uber, although other cities are struggling to follow Edmonton’s lead.

FSCO approves Aviva Canada ride-sharing policy

The Financial Service Commission of Ontario has granted regulatory approval to Aviva Canada to launch its ride-sharing specific auto insurance policy in the province. The policy is a huge help to controversial ride-sharing company Uber as it gives its drivers their first ever auto insurance coverage. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) described the policy as a first of its kind in Canada.
Aviva Canada
The most interesting result of the FSCO’s decision is that it leaves UberX operatives in Canada’s largest province covered for the first time, but those same drivers are still working in Ontario illegally. That’s because Uber is still yet to receive regulatory permission in the province, in other words the UberX service has not been legalized.
Aviva says it is fulfilling a customer need and filling a space in the market.

“There are a lot of people out there trying to make some extra money, and that’s a great thing, but they’re doing it without the appropriate coverage for themselves and for their passengers as well,” said spokesman Glenn Cooper.

Toronto has recently voted to regulate Uber, but changes have not been implemented yet, while a bill to potentially legalize ride-sharing services in Ontario is still waiting to go before the committees. Champion of that bill, Progressive Conservative Tim Hudak, has described Aviva’s policy as a major step forward and urged the province to legalize sharing companies.

“The longer we delay on an overall ride-sharing legislative framework the less help it is for cabbies, for Uber drivers, for customers and I’m worried that situation, that tension, is going to escalate if the province does not act,” he said.

However, the taxi industry remains hugely critical of Uber and opposition to the company is never likely to cease, even if the company is legalized and regulated fairly. Taxi associations have protested Uber and think the company provides illegal and unfair competition, and as such they have also spoke critically of Aviva’s policy.

“We are very concerned that an Aviva announcement that ‘an approved product exists and is available for purchase’ will be misconstrued by politicians to mean ‘20,000 illegal UberX drivers are now insured,’ Toronto Taxi Alliance president Gail Souter and Canadian Taxicab Association president Marc Andre Way wrote in a letter to Aviva.

Aviva Canada released a statement on its media relations page last week saying that it does not endorse Uber or any other ride-sharing company.

Quebec taxi drivers push back against Uber

Edmonton reached the historic decision to legalize Uber last week, a move that has been praised and seen several authorities say other Canadian municipalities should follow suit. However, while governments across the country are warming to the UberX ride-sharing service, taxi drivers and their unions remain fiercely opposed.

UberX Insurance
UberX Insurance

In Quebec, a taxi union is going after Uber aggressively this week, looking to take an injunction out against the United States based company. Regroupement des travailleurs autonomes Métallos represents more than 4,000 taxi drivers and owners across the province and in its general assembly held in Montreal on Sunday, the union decided to take drastic action against Uber.

The group believes the UberX service is unfair competition because it is operating in the province without regulation, essentially serving Quebec consumers as an illegal service. The union thinks the local municipal government should take charge of the situation and clamp down on Uber’s operations in Quebec, unless the company complies by existing taxi laws and regulations.

Regroupement des travailleurs autonomes Métallos now says it will seek an injunction against Uber, meaning the company would have to stop working in Quebec. That injunction could come as soon as Tuesday, but evidence from other regions in the country suggests Uber will carry on operating in Quebec regardless of authority pressure.

A spokesman speaking for the San Francisco based company said as much, while adding that any union injunction would be “without merit”.

“As we have seen from Superior Courts rulings across Canada, Uber is a new transportation model distinct from the traditional taxi industry,” said spokesman Jean-Christophe De Le Rue.

The taxi driver union said that it will also be taking a court action against Uber in a bid to recoup loss of earnings drivers say they suffered because of the illegal competition UberX brought to the province.

CRA sued Uber in bid to audit company

Uber still has its hands full in Canada as the company continues to stir up a myriad of controversies. After running afoul of municipalities around the country, the ride-sharing giant also faced the brunt of the Canadian government and was sued for failing to comply with an audit request.
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The government had been attempting to carry out an audit on Uber Canada since last February, but the company did not respond to the income tax check. 29 requests were then sent since after initial call, and Uber has ignored 13 of those requests, while only offering partial responses to 16. In all instances the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) says Uber failed to hand over its books for official inspection.

After granting numerous extensions on the deadline, the government patience wore thin and in October the CRA took Uber to court in a bid to force the company to open its books. Uber, for its part, says that the requests were for routine audits and that is complied with the CRA at every opportunity, despite CRA accusations that the company offered “excuses” for why it could not produces its financial details.

“The Minister sought and continues to seek the respondent’s books, records and documents in order to determine whether (Uber) has complied with its duties and obligations under the Income Tax Act and properly computed and reported taxable income,” reads the filing.

Uber says the court action was filed the same day as the deadline, October 16, and that was the day the company sent its books to be audited. Arguably the U.S. based ride-sharing giant was correct, as the court filing from the CRA was dropped 11 days after it was initiated.

Vancouver mayor urges B.C. changes to accommodate Uber

British Columbia has been one of the fiercest opponents to the expansion of Uber and the UberX ride-sharing service, putting up a big fight against the U.S. based company in the province. Now the Mayor of Vancouver is urging the province to change its laws for regulating taxis to allow for Uber to enter B.C. legally.

Mayor Gregor Robertson said the current system in British Columbia is problematic and needs reform to open the door for ride-sharing companies.

“B.C. currently lacks a modern regulatory framework to enable these new transportation technologies while ensuring proper standards are met,” Mr. Robertson wrote earlier this month in a letter to Transportation Minister Todd Stone.

It seems as though Robertson is saying that Vancouver, the largest city in British Columbia, is willing to accept Uber legally, which would fly in the face of the general mood coming from B.C. as a province.

“The first step for regulating such services starts with the B.C. government’s Passenger Transportation Board and the Ministry of Transportation,” Mr. Robertson wrote in the Jan. 5 letter.

“We urge you to work with local governments in the region as well as the taxi industry and other key stakeholder groups to put in place regulations that enable ride-sharing while addressing the need for all companies to provide proper insurance, driver training, service for people with disabilities and meet environmental standards.”

Mayor Robertson was speaking before Edmonton voted to legalize Uber, making it the first Canadian municipality to welcome Uber positively. It is unclear if Edmonton’s lead will be followed by other cities in the country or whether those opposed to Uber will continue to attempt blocking the company’s expansion.

Vancouver has been one of the most successful cities at stopping the operations of Uber within its limits and indeed the UberX service has still not arrived in the city.