Toronto police crackdown on UberX drivers

From the Globe and Mail:

Toronto police have launched a crackdown on UberX drivers, the latest in a series of confrontations between the city and the ride-sharing app company.

At least 11 people were charged earlier this month with a variety of Highway Traffic Act violations, including operating a commercial motor vehicle without proper insurance and picking up passengers for compensation without a taxi licence.

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Toronto Police confirmed that those charged were alleged to be working as UberX drivers.

Since its launch in 2009, Uber – which pairs passengers with paid drivers through its mobile app – has skirted municipal taxi regulations by describing itself as a technology company and not a taxi service. Further blurring the lines is its UberX service, which allows ordinary drivers as opposed to licensed taxi drivers pick up passengers.

According to court records, all 11 people were charged in a single weekend, between March 7 and 9, by a single officer from Toronto Police’s 12 Division in the city’s northwest. Together, the drivers face at least 22 charges. The penalty for picking up passengers without an appropriate licence is a fine ranging from $200 to $20,000.

At provincial court Tuesday, all 11 drivers were represented by a single lawyer, Gerald Chan of the high-profile Ruby Shiller Chan Hasan firm. Mr. Chan declined to comment when asked after the hearing whether he had been hired by Uber to represent the drivers.

In November of last year, the city launched legal action against the company, seeking to shut down Uber’s operations in Toronto. In response, Uber has been lobbying city councillors and Mayor John Tory to change the traditional taxi licensing regulations to account for ride sharing.

The city’s director of licensing, Tracey Cook, said the police crackdown was not conducted at her direction.

“I can’t direct the police,” Ms. Cook said in a brief interview.