Uber offers free rides as council mulls ride-share bylaws

Uber has taken surprising step in its continuing scuffle with the City of Edmonton over vehicle-for-hire laws; the company has simply stopped charging passengers.

City threatened to seek injunction if company did not cease operations by Saturday

Balraj Manhas, president of the United Cabbies Association of Edmonton, said the city should crack down on what he calls "illegal" Uber cars. (CBC)

Uber has taken surprising step in its continuing scuffle with the City of Edmonton over vehicle-for-hire laws; the company has simply stopped charging passengers.

“Uber is committed to working with the city and members of council to create a permanent regulatory framework for ridesharing,” the company wrote in a release Friday announcing it has stopped charging for trips on the Uber platform.

Last week, city council agreed to work with the company to address Edmonton’s vehicle-for-hire bylaws, which regulate taxi services.

As part of the discussion, council requested Uber stop operating as the new rules were being developed, citing safety and insurance concerns. A letter sent from the city’s legal department warned that if the company didn’t stop the service by Saturday, administrators would seek a court injunction.

“I hope it won’t come to that,” Coun. Andrew Knack told CBC News Thursday.

It isn’t the first time the company has offered free rides. When Uber first expanded to Edmonton in December, it didn’t charge passengers. When it introduced fees a week later, the city threatened to hit drivers with hefty fines for operating unlicensed cabs.

The company has argued in the past that it is a technology company that links drivers and passengers and it should not be regulated as a traditional cab company.

Earlier this week, Uber launched a petition urging the city to allow it to continue operating. So far, it has gathered over 7500 signatures.  

Not charging not good enough: cab drivers

Cab drivers in the city, which have been strongly opposed to Uber’s presence in the city, said that Uber should not be allowed to continue even if it doesn’t charge for rides.

“As the deadline approached, they are trying to use other tactics to stay in Edmonton,” said Balrej Manhas , president of the United Cabbies Association of Edmonton.

He said Uber drivers do not have the proper licences to act as cabs, and many passengers would not be covered under their insurance.

“The main concern of Edmontonians should be safety,” he said.

He said the drivers are still not licensed to ferry passengers around the city and should still be considered illegal.

A spokesman for Uber declined to a request for an interview.


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