Uber’s announcement that riders can now summon a car by making a voice call from a telephone confirms that it was a Taxi company all along, industry members say.
“They have been a Taxi company all the way along, from the first minute,” said Marc Andre Way, president of the Canadian Taxi Association. “They should have been subject to the same regulation as Taxis from the start.”
Uber’s May 17th announcement event also saw CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announce that Uber would now pick up unaccompanied teen-agers through their parents’ “Family” account.
“We all know that not everyone is comfortable using an app, like my mother-in-law, and for her there’s 1-800-USE-UBER,” Khosrowshahi told the audience, making no mention of the fact that using a telephone to call a Taxi company is a service which has been available for almost a century.
Abdul Mohamoud, CEO of Toronto’s Co-op Cabs, laughed out loud when asked about Uber’s new service offering by telephone.
“Who ever thought they were anything but a Taxi company from the day they arrived?” he said. “They are just confirming what everyone already knew.”
Many Canadian Taxi companies were decimated when municipalities not only wrote brand new regulations at Uber’s request but also allowed “open entry,” an unlimited number of “vehicles for hire.” The city of Toronto saw 5,500 licensed Taxis explode into almost 100,000 vehicles for hire cruising the streets.
However, in cities including Ottawa and Toronto, rideshare vehicles may only receive ride requests through the app. Only Taxis are allowed to receive orders by telephone or street hail.
Article 10 of Toronto’s Vehicle for Hire by-law Section 546-110 states that “A PTC shall only permit passengers requesting transportation to submit a request for transportation through a software application.”
Ottawa’s Section 148 reads, “No PTC Driver shall solicit or accept requests for transportation services that are not prearranged using the software or application or telecommunications platform or digital network of any PTC with which the PTC Driver is affiliated, including street hails or picking up fares at taxi stands.”
Uber’s decision to offer a phone number for ride service like any other Taxi company coincides with a lawsuit currently underway against the City of Ottawa. Members of the Taxi industry who believe Ottawa failed to enforce its own Taxi by-laws on Uber when it arrived are suing the city for $200 million in damages.