Richmond, Metro Vancouver taxi companies suing Uber, Lyft

Richmond Cabs, operating as Richmond Taxi, is one of nine Metro Vancouver companies trying to quash Uber and Lyft’s licence to operate in B.C.

Two legal challenges, filed Monday at BC Supreme Court, state the taxi companies are seeking an injunction to stop Uber and Lyft from operating, while a petition asking the court to rescind the companies’ licences is reviewed.  

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Other Metro Vancouver companies behind the suit are Yellow Cab, Black Top Cabs, Maclure’s Cabs, Vancouver Taxi, North Shore Taxi, Bonny’s Taxi, Burnaby Select Metrotown Taxi and Queen City Taxi.

Richmond’s Garden City Cabs and Kimber Cabs Ltd. are listed as “additional petitioners,” along with several other Metro Vancouver companies.

The Passenger Transportation Board (PTB), according to the petitioners, is allowing Uber and Lyft to operate on more favourable terms than the taxi companies, and didn’t consider the “extremely harmful financial impact” to taxis, with no current limits to fleet size or operating area.    

“The cornerstone of the regulation of the taxi industry has always been the limit on the number of taxi licences that are granted for a particular geographic area,” reads the petition, adding that the limits have been set to prevent the “destructive competition” that would result from unlimited entry into the market.

This, according to the petition, would result in none of the taxi companies being able to make a living.

“The business model of the international (ride-hailing companies), specifically Uber and Lyft, is to dominate the passenger transportation market by not having to comply with the rules and regulations that apply to taxis,” reads the petition.

The Richmond News has reached out to both Richmond Taxi and the lawyer representing the nine companies, but did not receive a response from either by the time of publication.

However, when asked by the News on their response to the petition, Michael van Hemmen, Uber's head of Western Canada, said it's the jurisdiction of the PTB to review and assess ride-hailing applications.

"Our licence application went through an extensive five-month review period, and we're confident the court will uphold the PTB's decision."

Uber and Lyft aren’t currently subject to fleet size restrictions.

“It takes years for (ride-hailing services) to ramp up. This will especially be the case with Class 4 drivers licence requirement,” said Catherine Reid, PTB chair, when the board set out conditions for ride-hailing operations.

“The Passenger Transportation Board will be monitoring (ride-hailing service) performance data, and as data becomes available fleet size may be reassessed.”

The minimum rate for Uber and Lyft is based on taxi flag rates, according to the PTB. In Metro Vancouver, this ranges from $3.50 to $3.75 as a base rate.

However, the petition claims that the taxi companies’ economic situation is “immediately and significantly” impacted by Uber and Lyft.

“There have already been several reports of reduced taxi business, especially at YVR airport and at hotel taxi stands, with taxis waiting longer than usual for customers, while customers wait longer to pay lower prices for Uber and Lyft,” reads the petition.

Ridesharing is different than a taxi, as defined by provincial law, said van Hemmel. 

"The Passenger Transportation Board and provincial government were responsible for creating regulations for ridesharing companies. It is also important to acknowledge that some taxi regulations, such as municipal boundaries, have been put in place and asked for by the industry itself."

Uber and Lyft were approved by the PTB Jan. 23, and both had business licences from the City of Richmond by Monday.

The injunction application will be heard Feb. 4.

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