Whether ride-hailing services are eventually allowed in B.C. or not is not the question, according to Mo Anwar, of Richmond Taxi.
It’s whether the service – which is illegal but operating freely in the Asian-language market in Richmond – should have to play by the same strict rules and regulations as regular, licensed cabs.
On Monday, as the provincial government discussed the future of ride-hailing in B.C. at a cross-party hearing, seven illegal ride-hailing services were already up and running around the province.
Five of them were operating in Richmond alone, according to the BC Taxi Association, which presented at the hearing.
And one of them, GoKabu, according to a former Global National Mandarin reporter, refused to pick up two passengers because the GlobalBC reporter was non-Chinese.
Mo Anwar, Richmond Taxi’s general manager, said it costs, on average, about $8,000 to $10,000, on top of the price of a vehicle, to get a cab on the road legally.
Anwar doubts any of the drivers currently operating on the black market in Richmond - via Chinese-language apps, such as Udi Kuaiche and Racoon Go – have stumped up such money in order to do business.
And he claims the continued operation of such unregulated ride-hailing services is hitting his company where it hurts.
“Our business is down about 25 to 30 per cent from about a year ago,” Anwar told the Richmond News.
“(The ride-hailing services) are all conducted in a different language, so we don’t really know for sure what it going on.
“But it should be a level playing field; if you want to come into this business, then you should follow the rules, with the likes of having proper insurance, training and criminal record checks.”
Anwar said, for example, if a customer has an issue with one of his drivers, he can look into it and follow up with the customer.
“I’m not sure they can get that with those ride-hailing services,” he added.
“At the end of the day, it’s safety I’m concerned about. People are using these services, but there doesn’t appear to be any regard for public safety.
“It’s a bit like comparing Craigslist with ReMax. You can buy a house on Craigslist. But would you rather buy a house through Craigslist or ReMax? I guess it’s up to the customer.”
Anwar said his drivers go through “quite vigorous training” for safety and quality control reasons.
“Oh, and we do have an app, as well,” he joked.
The News attempted to contact one of the ride-hailing services operating in Richmond to see if they would pick up a non-Chinese passenger.
A message was left, in English, with Udi Kuaiche, but no one has yet replied.
Last October, the B.C.-based Passenger Transportation Branch (PTB) issued a warning to passengers to beware of using ride-hailing services due to concerns over passenger and driver safety.
Several companies, according to the PTB, are operating via apps under the names: Longmao; Udi Kuaiche; U Drop; RaccoonGo; GoKabu; Dingdang Carpool and AO Rideshare.
“These companies have been recruiting drivers to operate their personal vehicles as commercial passenger directed vehicles in the Lower Mainland,” said the PTB’s advisory.
“It is important that drivers providing commercial transportation services through these social media apps understand they are assuming all of the risk related to providing the service.
“It is the driver, not the app companies, which are operating illegally and are subject to penalties and fines of $1,150.
“These drivers are also subject to possible further sanctions for not disclosing the commercial use of their vehicles to lease and insurance providers.
“Passengers must know that when they hail a ride in a vehicle through these apps, they are choosing to take a trip in a vehicle that has not been licenced to operate legally in British Columbia.”
The PTB said in October that it is currently investigating and issuing penalties to these operators.
If you have questions or concerns or want to make a report about these services, contact the PTB at 604-527-2198 or e-mail at PassengerTransportationBR@gov.bc.ca.
The News revealed last July, through an undercover reporter, the extent of the unregulated, ride-hailing services being run in Richmond.
We told how Chinese-language ride-sharing company Udi Kuaiche, launched last March, had been providing airport services and car rides in Metro Vancouver.
“Our company aims to serve everyone from the Chinese community and become the next leader in ride sharing,” wrote Udi Kuaiche on its website.
The spokesperson for Udi Kuaiche said he was not worried about potential legal problems.
“We are not against the law because there are no regulations for this in B.C. yet,” said Tom Chen, an executive of Udi Kuaiche, at the time. “Once the government is ready and implements a regulation system, we will apply.”
However, the City of Richmond said the lack of provincial regulations doesn’t give the car-sharing company the green light.
“We believe it is illegal to run before the province’s approval on ride-sharing services and the city will not issue them a business licence to operate in Richmond,” said city spokesman Ted Townsend last July.
“So they are currently operating without a licence in Richmond right now.”
With a file from Daisy Xiong/Richmond News