UBER rolls out in Edmonton, city calls service illegal
Julia Parrish, CTV Edmonton
Published Thursday, December 18, 2014 7:04PM MST
Last Updated Thursday, December 18, 2014 7:56PM MST
A controversial ride-sharing service has rolled out in Edmonton, but it’s a service officials with the City of Edmonton are calling illegal – and say they’ll fine drivers who take money as part of the service.
It’s billed as a low-cost alternative to conventional taxis, operated through an app that connects riders with drivers, or regular motorists who earn extra money by driving people.
“See who your driver is, their name, their rating, based on previous experiences as well as the make and model of the vehicle,” UBER Canada Regional Expansion GM Jeff Weshler said.
Weshler called it a cheap, and safe alternative to taking a taxi – saying fares can cost about 30 percent less.
“Every driver on our platform has to undergo an RCMP and local police background check before they can enter our process,” Weshler said.
Hopeful drivers also have to have a motor vehicle record check and a car newer than 2005 in order to drive for UBER.
On the other side, riders create an account through the app, using a credit card to pay online instead of exchanging cash with the driver.
“When you take cash out of the equation it does create a safer environment for the drivers as well,” Weshler said.
A new business in Edmonton is typically something the City welcomes, but that’s not the case this time.
“No welcome would not be the word I would use,” Garry Dziwenka, Director of Business Licensing and Vehicle for Hire said.
Dziwenka said UBER is unlicensed, and therefore illegal.
“The drivers have to be licensed by the City, which means they have to come up and bring in an abstract, police clearance, and do an English language test, those sorts of things,” Dziwenka said.
UBER said they have had introductory meetings with City officials, and are planning on creating a regulatory framework that works for a new style of business.
However, the City looked at those meetings differently.
“They told me their business model, but they made it clear to me that they have no intention of being licensed,” Dziwenka said. “They consider themselves an app, a technology company, not a transportation company.”
The City said the company will be watched closely, and if payment is exchanged for rides, they will be considered bandit taxis and the company could face legal action.
Drivers who sign up to participate could face at least $1,400 in fines.
In 2014, officials said about 1,000 bandit taxis were fined.
With files from Amanda Anderson