Uber update: B.C. government plans undercover sting, increased fines

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In order to curtail any unlicenced car service operations in British Columbia, Transportation Minister Todd Stone says the government is prepared to do a full-on undercover sting to bust Uber drivers.

“We will have dozens of undercover enforcement officers who will be at the ready to ensure that anyone who is providing a taxi-like service is doing so with a proper licence,” said Stone in a press conference, according to The Canadian Press.

Stone also noted non-compliant drivers currently face maximum fines of up to $5,000, but B.C. NDP leader John Horgan says he wants to have that amount upped to $20,000.

The minister’s remarks and his agency’s plan comes on the heels of a powerful rumour that circulated late last week that San Francisco-based car service app Uber was initiating a return to the Vancouver market during a moratorium banning their operations in the province.

Uber, who has been seeking drivers and management in Vancouver, but does not list the city on their website as part of their operations, is eager to return to the area after a brief 2012 foray into the B.C. market. In a statement issued Monday, November 3, Uber spokesperson Arielle Goren hoped to set the record straight about their practices and intentions:

With tens of thousands of people opening the Uber app, we know that residents of the Vancouver area are clamoring for the safe and sensible transportation choices that Uber already provides in over 220 cities around the world.

It is unfortunate that the local taxi lobby is so intent on spreading misinformation regarding Uber’s record. Here are the facts: in every city in which we operate, our background check standards and insurance coverage meet or exceed what is required of taxis. For example, in Toronto, Uber candidates are screened over their lifetime for potential DUI, traffic or sex offenses, whereas local taxi companies are only required to screen going back five years. Similarly, Uber insures every ride end-to-end with our best-in-class $5 million insurance policy, whereas Toronto taxis are only required to carry $2 million in liability insurance.

In countless cities, Uber has worked with policymakers to craft a regulatory framework that recognizes the benefits of ridesharing for drivers, riders and the community at large. We look forward to doing the same in Vancouver.

It was the same taxi and limo industry that forced Uber out in 2012, and the company is not shy about their take on the way the transportation biz is structured in B.C. Uber has gone so far as to draw the line defining what precisely it is that they do. Goren told The Canadian Press recently:

“It’s important to note that Uber is not a taxi service — we are a technology company — and as such we don’t believe it makes sense to force-fit the services we provide into a taxi regulatory framework that is often decades old.”

No matter how Uber is classified, Vancouver’s would-be clientele seem to favour the car service’s inclusion in the local transit market:

 

 

 

 

UPDATE 3:30 PM: The Vancouver Taxi Association has filed a suit against Uber in another move to try to block them entering the market. As Uber notes in their media response, this is taking things to a whole new level, considering Uber isn’t even a business operating in Vancouver currently:

To be 100% clear, Uber does not currently operate in Vancouver.  This lawsuit is a prime example of the Vancouver taxi industry’s singular goal: protecting its own cartel, even at the expense of consumers and its own drivers.  Moving beyond their typical tactics of threatening drivers, paying politicians thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, and lobbying regulators for special protections, the Vancouver taxi industry is now venturing into unchartered territory by suing a business that doesn’t even exist in the market yet.

Featured image: Woman using smartphone on street via Shutterstock

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Lindsay William-Ross Lindsay is a Senior Editor at Vancity Buzz, and currently runs the site's Food section. A fourth generation Vancouverite, she spent the last two decades in Los Angeles, where she was EIC of the city's top blog, earned her MA, attended culinary school, and was an English professor (among other things). Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancitybuzz.com
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