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Lawyers argue whether Uber’s surge pricing improves customer service at Ottawa Taxi trial

Uber Canada’s head office in Toronto, Ontario. Photo: Taxi News

Plaintiffs’ lawyer Thomas Conway and KPMG Senior Partner Brian Bourns engaged in a tense debate on what constitutes “improved customer service” at the Ottawa Taxi trial February 1st.

Conway questioned whether Uber’s policy of variable pricing actually benenfits consumers.

“You would agree with me that surge pricing, during times of high customer demand, does not actually advance the objective of consumer protection?” Conway asked. “How is that ‘improved customer service’?”

“It attracts more drivers into the market,” Bourns pointed out. “There are more cars on the street so that a customer can get a ride.”

Conway appeared incredulous, noting, “People who can afford to pay higher prices can get an Uber car when they need it. If you have the money, you can get a ride.”

“Well, that’s true of anything….people with no money can’t ride in Taxis, either,” Bourns pointed out.

Bourns is expected to be on the stand again February 2nd at 9:30am for continued cross examination.

Seven weeks of court time as been alloted to this hearing, which was certified in 2018. Members of Ottawa’s taxi industry launched the $215 million class-action lawsuit in April 2016, alleging the city did not protect drivers and the industry when ride-sharing services hit city streets. The suit also claims the city discriminated against minority taxi plate holders by failing to enforce its own bylaw and changing the bylaw to allow private transportation companies.

A key element of this trial is the allegation that the City of Ottawa “in failing to enforce its By-law and in changing the By-law, the City discriminated on the basis of race, colour, ancestry, ethnic or national origin, religion or creed, language, place of origin, or citizenship, contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code,” according to the class action.

The lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Metro Taxi Ltd., co-owner Marc Andre Way and Ishkak Mail, with the lawsuit seeking damages on behalf of taxi plate owners and brokers.