Alberta warns Uber drivers to get more insurance

Alberta’s superintendent of insurance is warning people that Uber drivers don’t carry enough insurance to cover riders if they get into a collision.
Uber signage in front of their headquarters in San Francisco, Calif., taken on Nov. 14, 2014. Uber is a taxi alternate ride sharing service which uses a smartphone application to connect passengers with drivers. (John G. Mabanglo/EPA)

Alberta's superintendent of insurance is warning that Uber drivers don't carry enough insurance to cover riders if they get into a collision.

Mark Prefontaine looked at insurance policies the controversial ride-share service offers its drivers and found them inadequate.

He is telling Uber drivers that they will need to get extra commercial insurance coverage because Uber's policy won't help. 

"A good part of it is because of the reliance that is put upon the driver's own policy with their own insurer," Prefontaine said. 

"So unless that driver has contacted their insurance company...then any passenger that gets into that vehicle is going to be at risk just as will the driver and a bystander."

Prefontaine is urging riders to ask their drivers for proof of commercial insurance. Prefontaine's office plans to work with Uber on the issue. 

The government has also set up a working group with officials from the departments of Transportation, Service Alberta, Justice and Municipal Affairs to look at ways ride-sharing services can safely operate in Alberta.

Uber spokesman Xavier Van Chau said each driver has insurance but didn't elaborate further 

"The bottom line is this: every ride on Uber is insured," he said in a written statement.  "We look forward to continuing our conversation with governments in Alberta to find long term solutions to enhance public safety and offer more affordable transportation options." 

Uber connects riders with drivers using a smartphone app. The drivers use their personal vehicles but don't have taxi licences. This has riled taxi drivers as well as municipalities, which insist anyone offering rides for a fee should hold a taxi licence. 

However, Uber insists it is a technology company not a transportation service so rules for regular taxis don't apply. 

Uber started operating in Edmonton in late December.

Questions about insurance prompted the city to seek an injunction against Uber while it figured out a way to allow the service to operate legally in Edmonton.

The injunction was struck down in April. City bylaw amendments aimed at making ride-share services legal are expected in the fall.


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