Uber threatens to leave Quebec, says ride-sharing rules onerous

The Uber logo is seen on mobile telephone in London on Sept 25, 2017.
The Uber logo is seen on mobile telephone in London on Sept 25, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

QUEBEC (AFP) – Uber threatened on Tuesday (Sept 26) stop services in Canada’s Quebec province in mid-October, saying proposed new ride-sharing regulations aimed at leveling the field with taxis are too onerous.

“We are going to have to cease our operations in Quebec on October 14,” Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, director general of Uber Quebec, told a press conference, but calling for negotiations to find a solution that would allow the company to stay.

The Uber executive accused the Quebec government of “trying to impose old (taxi) rules on a completely new technological model,” saying “major changes” in the regulations would force Uber to effectively operate like a taxi company with full-time drivers.

Under the new regulations unveiled last Friday, he said, Uber would not be able to attract and retain part-time or occasional drivers.

Guillemette urged the government to reconsider its position and renew a pilot programme that allowed Uber to operate in the province over the past year, without any changes.

At the same time, he offered to negotiate with authorities in the coming months to try to solve the deadlock.

The original one-year test programme, which is slated to end mid-October, required Uber to collect and pay taxes on each trip made by its drivers.

It also capped the time worked by all drivers to a total of 50,000 hours per week.

Quebec Transportation Minister Laurent Lessard said at the time that it allowed taxi and Uber drivers “to compete on a more balanced playing field.”

Last week, the government renewed the pilot but with stricter conditions that would require Uber drivers to undergo 35 hours of training – the same as taxi drivers – and a criminal background check by police.

Uber vehicles would also be required to undergo annual safety inspections.

The announcement on Tuesday comes after London transport authorities last week said they would not renew Uber’s licence to operate in the British city when it expires, due to public safety concerns.

Company chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi has apologised for “mistakes” by the US company but vowed to appeal the decision.

Uber has seen its global popularity explode since it launched in 2009 in San Francisco, but also faces bans in other major cities including Cape Town, Mumbai, and New Delhi.