Toronto taxi industry trying to block UberX in court
A court challenge to stop UberX from operating on city streets was launched Friday.
March 14, 2015
Toronto’s traditional taxi industry is taking the fight against UberX back to court as they seek to get the ride-hailing app’s most controversial — and cheapest — service off the streets.
An application for an injunction against all UberX drivers, the second such attempt in Toronto, was filed in court Friday, according to the legal firm representing Toronto taxi industry member, Sukhvir Singh Thethi.
That move comes with criticism for Mayor John Tory, who continues to push back against any further legal action against Uber after the city’s own injunction attempt failed last year.
But the argument for banning UberX could be muted before it’s even aired in court, with the city currently working on regulations to bring UberX under city bylaws. Those proposed changes are expected to be revealed next month.
“Toronto’s bylaws are very clear: only someone licensed as a taxicab driver may operate a vehicle for hire in the city,” Jay Strosberg, co-managing Partner for Sutts, Strosberg LLP said in a statement. “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?”
Unlike UberTaxi, which allows users to hail licensed cabs like those dispatched by Beck Taxi or Co-op Cabs, UberX allows users to connect with unlicensed cars for a cheaper fare.
Speaking to reporters at an unrelated news conference Monday, Tory said the city has focused its energy on reforming the rules to create a “balanced” legal regime for taxis and companies like Uber.
“Any injunction application will take a long period of time to actually get before the courts,” Tory said, guessing it would take “months.”
“By then, I hope we’ll be well-advanced by the debating and/or passage of a new bylaw that will provide fairness for taxi drivers, fairness for others involved in the ground transportation industry and choice for consumers,” Tory said.
Lawyers hope to be in court within the next two weeks to set a date for the application to be heard, likely in two to three months.
Strosberg told the Star that the application is a “last resort for the taxpayers and the taxi drivers.”
Under the City of Toronto Act, a taxpayer can bring forward an application to enforce bylaws if the city does not, he said.
Uber Canada spokesperson Susie Heath said they believe the “best path forward” is to update the current regulations.
“Over the last year we have made significant progress in Toronto, and with new regulations coming as early as this spring, it’s unfortunate that the Toronto Taxi Alliance has once again chosen to focus their efforts on stalling progress rather than working together for the best interests of all Torontonians,” she said in an email.
In October, council amended the city’s bylaws that govern car hires, making clear that those operating unlicensed vehicles, including those working for UberX, were operating illegally.
Though Uber Canada applied for a taxi brokerage to legalize its UberTaxi service, it has refused to cease its UberX service.
Last month, the city’s municipal licensing and standards committee, which has been largely pro-taxi industry during months of debate over Uber, asked the city’s lawyers to seek an injunction.
But at council, Tory himself changed the wording to request the city’s lawyers seek an injunction “under the appropriate circumstances.” That version was approved by a vote of council.
Strosberg said Tory’s intervention at council was “essentially delaying” any injunction and argued there’s no reason to wait while the city looks at reform.
“It’s not mutually exclusive,” he said.
The application outlines what lawyers argue are “risks to the public” with UberX drivers operating without commercial insurance or city-regulated training and inspections.
Strosberg said the application relies heavily on a similar, successful court challenge in Calgary which sought a temporary injunction against all UberX drivers. In that case, the City of Calgary itself sought the injection, instead of the taxi industry.