Transport Minister Todd Stone has been warned that Uber could “create significant regulatory challenges, compete directly with the regulated industry, and cause public safety concerns” in B.C.
According to files released through freedom of information legislation and posted online, the international ride-booking company headquartered in San Francisco has informed the province it will “launch immediately if any of their competitors, Lyft for example, were to start offering service in B.C.”
The document, marked “advice to minister” and “confidential issue note”, devotes specific attention to Uber X, the company’s classification for drivers who use their own vehicles.
It implies that Uber X faces extra regulatory hurdles in B.C. that the company does not have to contend with in other jurisdictions such as California.
Specifically, California requires cars offering rides to have a license, but the state does not regulate what rates a driver charges. In B.C., rates must be approved by the province’s Passenger Transportation Board. That additional stipulation will likely be a problem for Uber because its fees change based on demand—what the company calls “surge pricing”.
It’s noted that in B.C. any vehicle offering paid rides it is not licensed to provide can be subject to a fine of $1,150 and up to $5,000 for repeat offences.
The memo states that government officials have met with Chris Schaffer, Uber’s public policy lead for Canada, as well as representatives of the Vancouver Taxi Association, B.C. Taxi Association, and the Greater Victoria Taxi Association.
The document notes that Uber operated in Vancouver for a brief period during 2012, and that when the company was informed it was in violation of licensing conditions, it ceased offering services in the city, “creating an e-mail and social media frenzy”.
In November 2014, the Straight reported that Uber was aggressively advertising for would-be drivers on social networks such as Facebook. According to the issue note prepared for Stone, Uber was believed to have recruited "about 800" drivers according to information provided last September.