INJUNCTION APPLICATION FILED TO STOP UBER X FROM OPERATING IN TORONTO

Action Comes After Mayor John Tory Delays Injunction Request

TORONTO (March 14, 2016) – An application for an injunction was filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice by a City of Toronto taxpayer, who is also a taxicab driver. The applicant is seeking an order restraining and preventing all UberX drivers from continuing to provide taxicab services for UberX in Toronto.

The legal basis for the injunction is that under the City of Toronto Act, a taxpayer may bring an application to the Court seeking an order restraining someone from conducting activities that contravene Toronto’s bylaws.

A similar process was followed in Calgary where the injunction was granted.

In October 2015, Toronto’s bylaws were amended and clearly state that only someone licensed as a taxicab driver may operate a taxicab in Toronto.  Under the recently amended bylaw, UberX drivers are considered taxicab drivers, but do not have the license required to legally operate a taxicab in Toronto as required by the bylaw. The law prohibits:

  • Drivers from driving passenger motor vehicles for hire in Toronto unless they are licensed by the City as a taxicab or limousine driver;
  • Drivers from driving passenger motor vehicles for hire in Toronto unless the owner of the vehicle is licensed by the City as a taxicab or limousine owner; and
  • Owners of vehicles from allowing people to drive their vehicles for hire in Toronto unless the driver is licensed by the City as a taxicab or limousine driver

Sutts, Strosberg LLP represents the Applicant.

“Toronto’s bylaws are very clear: only someone licensed as a taxicab driver may operate a vehicle for hire in the City,” said Jay Strosberg, co-Managing Partner, Sutts, Strosberg LLP.  “The bylaw was specifically changed to capture this conduct, yet Mayor Tory has decided to ignore Toronto’s own bylaw. Why bother changing the law unless you are going to enforce it?”

Mr. Strosberg is “baffled” by the City’s decision to permit UberX to continue to operate as a taxi service without proper licensing and oversight.

“Taxi drivers, as taxpayers, have no choice but to file this injunction because Mayor Tory will not,” said Mr. Strosberg. “The fact that this is a recent amendment makes it all the more egregious. The enforcement of law should not be a matter of politics.  Mayor Tory is sending the message that lawlessness is acceptable.”

For the purposes of consumer protection, the City’s licensing protocol contained in Municipal Code Chapter 545-1, Licensing requires that, among other things:

  • taxicab and limousine drivers complete a training course;
  • vehicles used as taxicabs or limousines pass mechanical inspection and be equipped with certain safety equipment;
  • vehicle owners have comprehensive insurance policies (with minimum coverage of $2,000,000) and have deposited a copy of their certificates of insurance with the City; and
  • the fares or rates charged for taxicab or limousine rides are in accordance with a fee schedule established by the City

The application and injunction therefore seeks an order declaring that all UberX drivers in Toronto are breaching the bylaw and also ordering that UberX drivers be prevented from continuing to operate without the required licenses.

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Media Contact for Jay Strosberg, Sutts Strosberg LLP 

Aerial Communications Group

Naomi Strasser

416.787.6577

naomi@aerialpr.com

Backgrounder: Why is a taxpayer bringing this injunction request? 

Uber=Taxi; regulations must be identical

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Identical twins Alexander and Daniel Geremia attended the TTA event at City Hall on February 26th to help illustrate the idea, "Regulations for Uber and Taxi must be IDENTICAL." Their mom Marlene and her sister Arlene are identical twins as well.

 

February 26, 2016 (TORONTO) – The Toronto Taxi Alliance (TTA) says their members will be more than capable of competing with Uber so long as regulations for Taxi and Uber are identical.

“Several TTA members attended ‘stakeholder’ meetings held in February by MLS, ostensibly to provide input to the ground transportation report as it is being written,” says TTA spokesperson Asafo Addai, who will visit Toronto City Hall today to deliver the TTA’s submission before the February 29th deadline. The report is expected on April 7th.

“These meetings were designed to spend many hours in discussion over such topics as ‘Should the City set meter rates?’ and ‘Should we have roof lights and security camera?’” says Addai.

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The TTA's submission to the new ground transportation regulations process is so short, you could frost it on a cookie: Uber=Taxi. Regs must be identical. No open entry.

 

“Until we know that Taxis and Uber vehicles will be treated identically the same, there is no point in musing these details. We have no frame of reference for discussing any of these items, whether they are related to safety – like vehicle inspections and driver training – or whether they are related to commerce, like meter rates and license fees.

“Should taxis have snow tires and security cameras, with meter rates set by the City? If Uber’s going to have exactly the same requirements, sure. If Uber gets a pass on all of these things, it’s a totally different story. These stakeholder meetings put the cart before the horse by focusing on details without disclosing whether we’re talking about one system, or two."

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TTA Committee member Asafo Addai has worked tirelessly in attempting to communicate the damage Uber has done to Toronto's legal taxi industry. Addai was one of the hunger strikers who slept outside City Hall for 3 nights last winter.

TTA members could not:

  • get a guarantee there would be no new and separate transportation category recommended in the report;
  • get any assurance that Uber and Taxi would be treated identically the same;
  • persuade staff to share their definition of the term ‘equitable’ treatment as used in the direction from Council on September 30.

 

Therefore, the Toronto Taxi Alliance’s submission to the ground transportation review can be covered by these three points:

  • Uber=Taxi

Uber, UberX and all of Uber’s entities must be regulated as taxi companies.

 

  • Regulations for Uber, UberX and Taxi services must be identical

There cannot be two sets of regulations in Toronto, one which applies to Uber and other so-called “ride sharing” companies and different set of regulations which apply to taxi companies.

There needs to be ONE set of regulations which applies to ground transportation companies carrying passengers for compensation. These entities must be governed identically by these regulations.

 

  • No open entry

Open entry means anyone with a car can provide ground transportation services, with no requirement for a license to operate and no cap on the number of vehicles providing transportation service.

Open entry has never been right for the City of Toronto and it will not work now.

In 2014, MLS indicated Toronto has the correct number of licensed vehicles on the road. With Uber, Toronto has 20,000 more. This is not working for Toronto.

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Two-tier taxi system is a race to the bottom

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September 9, 2015 (Toronto) -- Toronto’s taxi industry is extremely disappointed to see that City staff are recommending Toronto abandon its single tier system of regulation and enforcement of ground transportation, which has protected residents and drivers for 80 years.

“If adopted by Council, these recommendations will spell the end of Toronto’s taxi industry as we know it,” says Sajid Mughal, President of iTaxi Workers.

“Taxicabs are regulated for a reason: they carry our most valuable cargo, Human Beings. We cannot have the wild, wild west in the area of transporting vulnerable passengers.”

Toronto’s taxi industry has followed the rules and regulations determined by Council and staff. Toronto taxicabs are equipped with roof lights, door numbers, City-sanctioned meters and in-car security cameras. Drivers are trained, carry commercial insurance , and have a police background check.

“With the proposed creation of Transportation Network Companies, City staff are setting up an incredibly lop-sided system which would saddle law-abiding taxi drivers with onerous regulations and expenses while UberX drivers are allowed to skim off the easiest and most lucrative business,” says Sam Moini, spokesperson for the Toronto Taxi Alliance.

Allowing UberX cars with no roof lights, meters or in-car cameras to operate outside the system of regulated fares begs conflict situations for riders and drivers, Moini says.

UberX has no accessible vehicles, and cannot be contacted by citizens who do not own smart phones.

“No taxi driver with any common sense, or business sense, will try to keep driving a licensed taxi while competing with these Transportation Network Companies,” Moini says. “Toronto will now get two tiers of transportation service, UberX and taxi. Toronto will quickly be reduced to one level of service, and it will be the lowest level: UberX.

“We can only hope that Toronto’s elected officials see the incredible damage these recommendations will do to the city’s ground transportation system, and stop them cold when the vote comes to Council,” says Mughal. “The City’s own recent review showed that Toronto has the right number of taxi licenses; with no cap and a new tier, the city will be flooded with drivers, none of whom can make a living.”

The City of Toronto does not regulate automobile insurance: Ontario does. Toronto has no authority to sanction UberX drivers to operate without insurance, and in fact opens itself up to potential lawsuits by attempting to do so.

“There was a lot of excitement yesterday over the fact that Intact Insurance has announced its intention to develop an insurance product for UberX,” Moini points out.

“This might be news if there was actually a product UberX drivers could buy – but there is not. Intact did nothing more than announce its ‘intention. which begs the question: if Intact is so excited about developing a new product for the future – what is covering UberX drivers NOW? Nothing. UberX drivers are not covered by any insurance company in Ontario. How can City of Toronto staff recommend the creation of a class of transportation vehicles which cannot obtain insurance anywhere in Ontario? It’s insane.”

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Standard plate issue DEFERRED (updated May 6th with link to Council minutes)

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The issue of grandfathering the Standard Plate was addressed by Toronto Council on May 5th; however, on a motion by Mayor John Tory, the issue was deferred until after the Uber court case which will be heard on May 19th, 20th, and 21st.

Despite the fact that the Standard Plate issue and the Uber issue have no connection to each other, the majority of councillors voted to defer the issue. The date being suggested is "June;" however, it could be several months after that before the judge offers any decision.

Click here to see the Council Minutes on the Standard Plate agenda item, including the list of Councillors who voted for or against deferral of the item.

Larry Levy, WWII vet & Standard Plate owner

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Larry Levy and his wife Betty attended the L&S Committee meeting on March 24th to ask Councillors to grandfather Toronto's Standard Taxi plate. You can view Larry's interview here. 

Larry fought with Canada in Holland in World War II and returned to start his own taxi business with multiple cars which he ran for half of a century. When he started his business, Toronto told plate owners that owning a plate was a business investment and that owners would be able to retire with the plates as their pension. In February 2014, Toronto reneged on this long-standing agreement, leaving lifetime taxi industry members like Larry Levy out in the cold.

"I love this country and the people in it. I'm just asking Canada to do the same thing for me I did for Canada: fight for me," Levy says.

 

 

Councillor DiGiorgio sponsors motion to grandfather the Standard Plate at L&S Committee

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Larry Levy, 90-year-old World War 2 vet attended the March 24 Licensing and Standards meeting with his wife Betty. They were among the first speakers and did an excellent job of illustrating the point that devaluing the Standard Plate has unfairly harmed many life-long taxi industry members. Levy once ran 7 plates, and currently owns two.

At the March 24th meeting of the Licensing and Standards Committee, Councillor Frank DiGiorgio proposed the following motion, which passed unanimously:

"L+S Committee directs the Executive Director of Municipal Licensing and Standards to bring forward to the Licensing and Standards Committee the necessary bylaw amendments to reinstate the Standard Taxicab regulations that were in effect prior to February 19, 2014, and to provide a report to the Committee at its meeting on April 21, 2015.”

The full agenda and minutes of the meeting are available here.

The report requested of staff is scheduled to come back to L&S Committee on April 21st. Interested parties will have a chance to make deputations to Committee again on April 21st at 10am. To have your name included on the list of deputants, you can call 416-397-4592 or email lsc@toronto.ca

The report would then go on to Toronto City Council May 5,6,7.

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Asafo Addai who represents Ambassador Drivers on the TTA Executive Committee told L&S Committee members that he believes the Standard Plate should be grandfathered, "as a matter of fairness." Addai's institutional memory of how the Ambassador Plate was created was very helpful to the Committee, and he was able to answer all of their questions.

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TTA Executive Committee member Sam Moini and his father Hussein spoke to L&S Committee member to ensure Councillors have the fleet perspective before they make any decisions. "The Fleets are the backbone of the industry," Sam pointed out. "The reason Toronto residents can access cabs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is because the Fleet garages make sure the cabs are running. Moving to an unknown business model with the Toronto Taxi License will kill the fleets on which Toronto depends."

 

Uber And Airbnb: Make These Silicon Valley Darlings Accountable

Diane Francis | March 13, 2015 | Last Updated: Mar 13 7:04 PM ET

Uber and Airbnb are the darlings of Silicon Valley whose founders describe themselves as technology companies and pioneers of the “sharing economy.” But I don’t buy it.

The shared economy — multiple use of assets — is an old model and cabs, Zip Car and hotels have been around for some time.
Airbnb and Uber are simply intermediaries with technology and a business model that undercuts competitors and harms customers because it is based on circumventing rules, regulations and laws that apply to everyone else or to Zip Car, hotels and other intermediaries or brokers.

Airbnb is an online listings site that books more nights than does Hyatt Hotels worldwide at relatively low prices, but here’s how.
The company requires clients to sign a Terms of Service agreement that indemnifies the company from responsibility for injuries, damages, taxes, regulations or anything.

Because Airbnb believes it is indemnified, the company does not vet renters or units. This means that strangers who have not been checked or referenced can stay in units without permission of the landlord or neighboring condo owners or renters. These people may be convicted burglars, pedophiles or terrorists and, through Airbnb, they are able to gain access to residents, corridors, stairwells, gyms, pools, locker rooms, lounges and parking garages.

This also means that renters could be exposed to risks, too, because they may be staying in units obtained through Airbnb that violent persons own or have access to.

Airbnb listings also ignore the reality that in New York City and other urban areas, short-term rentals are, legally speaking, “hotels” and must pay hotel and income taxes. In addition, “hotel” units must meet hotel-standard fire, security, safety, zoning and other protective criteria, and Airbnb units do not.

Not surprisingly, horror stories are starting to surface about prostitutes, criminals or worse renting through Airbnb in many places. In January, New York City Council held hearings into an outright ban, New York State’s Attorney declared Airbnb short-term rentals as “illegal hotels” and the Real Estate Board of New York said such rentals raise “serious concerns for the safety of residents”.
Then there is Uber.

It’s an online cab dispatch service that matches passengers with drivers — nothing more than a digital hitch-hiking service. Uber also requires clients to sign away their rights: “You expressly waive and release the company from any and all liability, claims or damages arising from or in any way related to the third party transportation provider.”

The result is that Uber can offer cheap fares (through its Uber X option) because it uses drivers without training, livery licences, inspected vehicles or sufficient insurance. (Uber also has a luxury service, called Uber Black or SUV, that uses properly licensed, inspected and insured cars and drivers who demand very high fares.)

Not surprisingly like Airbnb, Uber X horror stories have surfaced and the company is under attack and banned in some jurisdictions. So far, Uber X drivers have been charged with dangerous driving, physical assault, sexual assault and rape.

While such incidents have been few and far between, Uber X’s business model exemplifies the same disregard for laws, rules, regulations and public safety as does Airbnb’s.

Most agree, as I do, that people have a right to rent out their residence for extra cash, but that they do not have the right to bypass their building bylaws, neighbors’ safety, regulatory safeguards or to evade taxes.

Similarly, people have a right to hire someone to drive them around, and if they don’t check their insurance, safety or criminal records, they have only themselves to blame. But allowing companies like these to make millions in fees as intermediaries without adhering to laws, rules, regulations or adherence to public safety is not something that any government on any level should allow.

Frankly, Uber X (not its platform to match passengers with legitimate livery services) should be banned and so should Airbnb unless it lists only legally constituted units that meet hotel criteria and pay taxes.

Most importantly, no company should be allowed to ask clients to indemnify them and no courts should recognize this indemnification either.

Nobody else has this privilege, not individuals or businesses like Marriott or Hyatt Hotels, Checker Cabs, Air Canada, American Airlines, Via Rail, Amtrak, Greyhound Bus, financial advisors, lawyers, accountants and other intermediaries.

Despite many critics and negative headlines, the two companies have not mended their ways, but have hired fancy public relations experts to protect their brands. But the only fix is for governments and tax authorities to crack down on them and make them accountable for their actions.

Financial Post
dfrancis@nationalpost.com