EDMONTON — Greater Edmonton Taxi Services – which includes Yellow Cab, Barrel Taxi, Checker Cab and Prestige Cab – along with Alberta Co-op Taxi and 24-7 Taxi Line, filed a lawsuit Monday against Uber and its drivers.
The group said the lawsuit opposes the ridesharing app and its drivers’ “continued deviance of the regulations ensuring the safe operation of taxi services in Edmonton.”
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“Uber wants to operate in a completely unregulated manner, without even obtaining the commercial insurance required to protect the public,” the group said in a news release.
“We operate in accordance with the law, and we can’t allow Uber to destroy our business by continuing to defy the laws regulating taxi services.
“That is the reason we have brought the lawsuit,” the taxi group said.
Uber calls the lawsuit “protectionist” and “without merit.”
“As we saw from a court ruling in Alberta, Uber is operating legally and is a business model distinct from traditional taxi services,” said Uber spokesperson Jean-Christophe de le Rue. “We remain committed to working with the City of Edmonton on regulations that support ridesharing in the city to the benefit of riders and drivers.”
On Sept. 4, the city proposed a vehicle-for-hire bylaw that would allow technology-based companies like Uber to operate legally in Edmonton.
READ MORE: Proposed bylaw would allow Uber to operate legally in Edmonton
The new bylaw would essentially make Uber drivers much like existing taxi drivers. It would require Uber drivers to undergo a criminal record check, have their vehicle inspected yearly and acquire a licence from the city. They would also need a commercial insurance policy with appropriate liability coverage similar to that used by a taxi operator; personal insurance would not be adequate.
“We want to be just part of the cocktail of transportation options that Edmontonians have to get around the city,” said Ramit Kar, the general manager of Uber in Edmonton. “We’ve seen in several other markets around the world that we are coexisting.”
Kar added Uber is excited to be partnering with Intact Insurance to create Canada’s first ridesharing insurance policy.
Less than a week after the proposed bylaw was announced, local taxi drivers held a large meeting in south Edmonton and vowed to oppose the proposed bylaw.
READ MORE: Edmonton cabbies fighting Uber legalization
“The main concern here is there seems to be two sets of rules,” said Shayne Saskiw, a lawyer with lobby group Alberta Counsel Ltd.
“(The taxi drivers) want to ensure that there’s a fair playing field.
“That if you’re going to be involved in commercial driving, there should be rules for everybody and everyone abides by the same rules.”
READ MORE: Uber threatens to pull out of Edmonton unless proposed bylaw is amended
The following day, Uber released a statement, threatening to leave Edmonton unless amendments were made to the city’s proposed vehicle-for-hire bylaw.
The “draft bylaw is an important step forward but the proposed regulation contains provisions that do not serve the interests of riders and drivers,” said Uber Canada spokesperson Jean-Christophe de Le Rue.
Edmonton’s director of licensing and vehicle for hire said the city encourages businesses to come to Edmonton and prosper but stressed they all must follow the laws that are in place.
“Whether Uber leaves Edmonton or not, that’s up to their business practices,” said Garry Dziwenka. “That would be something they would make based on their policies.”
Dziwenka is encouraging everyone – the public, industry and other stakeholders – to share their thoughts on the proposed bylaw in person on Sept. 16 when it goes before city council.