Ottawa

Ottawa taxi drivers welcome Uber class-action lawsuit

The Ottawa taxi industry is welcoming a $410 million class-action lawsuit filed yesterday against ride-sharing service Uber.

'Uber gets away with everything', says taxi operator CEO as $410 million lawsuit is filed

Toronto city bylaw enforcement officers appear to be cracking down on Uber, but the company says the city should instead be looking to update its taxi licensing rules. (CBC)

Ottawa taxi drivers are welcoming news of a class-action lawsuit filed against the app-based ride-sharing service Uber — on behalf of all cab and limo drivers and owners in Ontario. 

A Windsor-based law firm filed the lawsuit with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice Thursday, asking for $410 million in damages and an injunction to stop Uber from operating in the province.

The lawsuit alleges Uber violated parts of the Highway Traffic Act by offering services in which drivers use their own cars or SUVs to transport passengers, causing the plaintiff and others in the taxi industry to suffer damages.

After more than 30 years in the business, cab driver Ahmed Khandid is happy to support the lawsuit. 

"We were supposed to do this 10 months ago rather than now, but it's never too late," he said.

The union representing licensed taxi drivers in Ottawa has been considering legal action against Uber for months, said Amrik Singh, head of Unifor Local 1688.

"Uber doesn't follow any bylaws, so we think we are being penalized just for obeying the laws," Singh said. "And they should pay the price for that."

'I can tell you that drivers are suffering'

But Hanif Patni, president and CEO of Coventry Connections, isn't optimistic the lawsuit will help his drivers.

"I think we need something to help the drivers immediately," he told CBC Ottawa. "It's the responsibility of the politicians and the police to make sure this level of enforcement is in place."

Patni added that cab drivers are not opposing Uber because of the competition the company poses to the taxi industry.

"We don't mind Uber disrupting us if they're paying the HST, if they're paying the appropriate insurance, if they're getting the correct licenses and paying the cities and provinces the appropriate license fees. They don't do any of that," he said.

"I can tell you that drivers are suffering. Uber gets away with everything when it comes to not abiding by the law."

In an email, Uber Canada spokesperson Susie Heath called the lawsuit "protectionist" and "without merit."

"Uber is operating legally and is a business model distinct from traditional taxi services," she said.

An Ontario judge recently ruled in Uber's favour in a case in which the City of Toronto alleged the ride-sharing company was violating municipal bylaws. Superior Court Judge Sean Dunphy ruled earlier this month there was "no evidence" Uber is operating as a taxi broker or that it breached Toronto city bylaws.

Uber maintains a presence in Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax. It was forced to shut up shop after brief sojourns in Vancouver and Calgary, and began offering its services in London, Hamilton, Waterloo and Guelph Thursday.

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