Calgary weary of UberX debut

Published: October 19, 2015

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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The city of Calgary is bracing itself for the arrival of the UberX drive sharing service and authorities are warning the public against using the private-for-hire car company. The chief reason behind the caution is that the UberX service breaks several bylaws in Calgary, as it has in other Canadian cities where it is already in operation.

American company Uber has courted controversy wherever it has gone, including several other major cities in Canada. The service goes against bylaws and has been described as a quasi-taxi service that is actually breaking laws by operating in cities. Toronto originally tried to ban UberX in Canada’s most populated city, but eventually the council voted to introduce regulations that will come into effect at the start of 2016. That was viewed as a revolutionary move that other cities in the country will likely follow.

Calgary is still some way from that scenario and indeed is only now starting its journey with UberX, and the city government is worried:

“The City advises citizens that there are risks associated with participating in private for-hire vehicle services such as Uber,” the city said in a statement. “These risks include the fact that the vehicles are not inspected by the City and the drivers are not licensed by the City. There is also a risk that drivers, passengers and any third party involved in an accident with one of these vehicles may not receive insurance coverage or may receive only limited coverage.”

The patchy details about Uber’s insurance protection has been much debated, but while the company says drivers are covered, many UberX operatives have found the opposite to be the case. Indeed, many find that they are neither covered by the company or by their own personal insurance policy, which is not designed for them to use their vehicles as driver-for-hire.

A Strategic Planning Meeting of Council will take place on Nov. 16 and the city is saying the subject of regulating Uber will at least be raised, although a vote is unlikely to take place at that time.

“Despite this direction from Council, Uber has chosen to launch its service in Calgary before Council has had an opportunity to consider any options,” the statement said.

“Regulated taxi and limousine drivers are required to have commercial auto insurance that ensures both passengers and drivers are safe and covered if an accident were to occur,” the statement said. “It is important that citizens and drivers of private for hire vehicles understand the implications currently involved in utilizing such services. Using or driving one of these vehicles could mean you don’t have access to insurance protection and accident benefits under Alberta law.”