Toronto seeks court injunction to stop Uber
The City of Toronto is seeking a court injunction that would prevent Uber from operating within its jurisdiction, saying that the business is "operating illegally." At a press conference this afternoon, Tracey Cook, Executive Director of Municipal Licensing and Standards, reiterated the city's claim that Uber poses a risk to the public.
Cook said the company was operating in "flagrant disregard" of city bylaws governing taxi and limo services. The injunction, if granted, would stop Uber applications from operating in Toronto.
In a statement, Uber expressed frustration with the city's decision to proceed with legal action. "It's disappointing that city bureaucrats have deployed expensive legal tactics to attempt to halt progress, limit consumer choice and force a broken transportation model on the public."
"We look forward to sitting down with the city and working to find a common sense approach to regulations that promote public safety and create a permanent home for Uber in Toronto."
It's been a bad couple of days for Uber. Just yesterday, BuzzFeed reported the company's senior vice president Emil Michael had proposed spending a "million dollars" to investigate the personal lives of journalists and other people who are publicly critical of the business.
"Nobody would know it was us," Michael said. He has since worked back the remarks.
Uber currently operates two Toronto services: one that allows users to summon and pay for a licensed cab or luxury vehicle without making a phone call, and another, called UberX, that allows car owners to become paid drivers.
Following the launch of UberX in Toronto, the city said it had "significant concerns" about the service, which lets anyone with a recent, four-door vehicle, a driver's license, and a clean background check to become a driver. A team of legal experts hired by the city has been investigating ever since.
"Anyone driving as an UberX driver is doing so in violation of city bylaws at their own peril," Cook said this afternoon.
The city believes Uber needs to be licensed, but the company doggedly insists it is a technology company, not a taxi service. In Dec. 2013, Uber was hit with a total of 35 Toronto bylaw infraction notices. So far, the charges have not been heard in court.
Uber has also been accused of unfair "surge pricing," which results in prices being dramatically increased during peak periods, like Halloween.
Despite opposition from cities and taxi companies, Uber has been steadily growing. It recently raised $1.2 billion in capital from investors and could be worth a whopping $18 billion USD.
The company now operates in more than 200 cities worldwide, but perhaps not for much longer in Toronto.
What do you think of the city's plan to shut down Uber?
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.
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