British Columbia

Uber wants lawsuit filed by Vancouver taxi companies thrown out

Uber is asking a B.C. court to throw out a lawsuit filed by four Vancouver-based taxi companies that are attempting to block the ride-sharing service from launching in the city.
Uber is asking a B.C. court to throw out a lawsuit filed by four Vancouver-based taxi companies that are attempting to block the ride-sharing service from launching in the city. (CBC)
Uber is asking a B.C. court to throw out a lawsuit  filed by four Vancouver-based taxi companies that are attempting to block the ride-sharing service from launching in the city.

The taxi companies applied for an injunction in November amid rumours that Uber was about to launch its controversial Uberservice, which allows riders to use a smartphone app to connect with private drivers.

The companies' lawsuit alleged Uber was planning to launch in violation of local bylaws and provincial taxi regulations, which they argued would put passengers at risk.

But Uber says in court documents that the lawsuit is based on  speculation, since Uber has yet to actually launch, and it says the taxi companies have no authority to enforce municipal or provincial regulations. The company has not confirmed when, or even if, it plans to operate in the city, though it has been actively recruiting drivers and office staff.

"For over 50 years, they (the taxi companies) have operated as a cartel seeking to stifle any form of competition or innovation inthe commercial transportation industry," says Uber's application, which was filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The Vancouver Taxi Association said it looks forward to dealing with Uber in court. 

"Calling us a cartel ... that is just wrong, they're just wrong, absolutely wrong, and I don't even know what else to say," said Carolyn Bauer with the Vancouver Taxi Association. "I don't want to bad mouth anyone. The media has put out enough press out there to make people aware and make proper choices."  

"I've always said Vancouver taxi industry is not against competition as long as it's on a fair, equal playing field ... go through the proper channels, get the proper insurance pay the proper licencing fees," she said. 

Uber has run into opposition in many jurisdictions, including in  Toronto, where city officials filed a lawsuit late last year in an attempt to force Uber out of its city.

Unlike Uber's traditional taxi service, which helps users hail licensed cabs, Uber X allows anyone with a vehicle to apply to become a driver. That has prompted warnings from the taxi industry, governments and regulators that Uber X would endanger passengers by putting them in the hands of unregulated drivers.

Uber has repeatedly argued it should not be forced to follow taxi regulations because it is a technology company, not a taxi service.The taxi companies' lawsuit also argued passengers would be

confused into thinking Uber X cars comply with taxi regulations. Uber, however, suggests its alleged reputation for flouting the rules would ensure no one is confused. 

"The (taxi companies') notice of claim pleads everywhere that Uber has 'openly' refused to comply with these same (regulatory) schemes," says Uber's court application.

"Therefore, on the plaintiff's own allegations, it is plain and obvious that the public will not be misled as plaintiffs suggest."

With files from Jeff Harrington