The city of London in Southwestern Ontario is the latest to find itself caught up in the Uber controversy. The U.S. ride-sharing arrived in the city six months ago and the expansion brought with it the typical controversy as Uber drivers operate unregulated and without insurance in the city.
While London has gone after Uber more aggressively than other municipalities, the city is still willing to consider adopting the company legally and drawing up bylaw regulations. Since Uber arrive, the city has issued fines to 36 drivers, ranging between $400 and $1000. In each case Uber has picked up the tab, but the company continues to say it should not be regulated as a taxi service.
However, despite court action between the city and the company, Uber has welcome the report, which will give local lawmakers courses of action. Issued by city hall, the report will point to Uber either being legalized and regulated or leaving London entirely.
“We welcome the (report and) look forward to continuing to engage with city officials and council to modernize regulations to encourage innovation, put people first and create safe, reliable and affordable transportation options,” an Uber spokesperson wrote.
While taxi drivers have aggressively fought Uber around the country, counselors need to be aware that the interests of the consumer should also be taken into account, and that the taxi industry does not have a given right to be protected from competition.
It is a balancing act that most cities around Canada are trying to solve, and the London report is the latest effort to do just that.
Key questions to be asked at public forum this spring:
Should companies like Uber be permitted? If yes, what type of safety regulations should apply?
Should regulations be different than for existing taxis and limos?
Should fares be regulated?
Should there be a cap on the number of taxis and Uber-like vehicles?
Five options outlined by city staff:
Status Quo: Don’t allow Uber, don’t change taxi regulations while recognizing Uber will still try to operate, which will lead to costly enforcement, as Uber has been fighting fines against its drivers.
Permit Uber and similar companies, but only as cabs with the same constraints as traditional taxi companies, including a bylaw that caps the number of cab licenses.
Permit Uber and similar companies, but only as limos, which would mean no cap on the number of vehicles. Since regulations require higher standards for limos, fewer Uber vehicle would qualify.
Permit Uber and similar companies and create a new category in which the city regulates safety, requiring insurance, for example, but with no cap on the number of vehicles or the fares charged.
Permit Uber and similar companies and create a new category that leaves it to Uber to be responsible for safety with only a duty to disclose to the city how it is doing so.