As part of a news release today, the Canadian Competition Bureau has stated it believes that Uber and other “digital dispatch services” can add convenience and better service to the taxi industry.
“First, digital dispatch services offer an innovative and convenient alternative to traditional methods of arranging urban transportation, such as hailing a taxicab on the street or phoning a traditional dispatcher. This is very convenient for consumers.
“In addition, many of the new emerging software applications offer additional features, including payment options and Global Positioning System technology to allow consumers to identify nearby available vehicles and tailor their requests accordingly. While early digital dispatch services generally connected passengers to licensed taxicab drivers, some applications are now facilitating “ride sharing” services that connect passengers to private drivers that wish to offer transport services. These innovative applications benefit consumers in the form of greater convenience and better service quality.”
As part of its federal mandate, the Competition Bureau looks to ensure a competitive marketplace to the benefit of Canadian consumers. In the case of Uber, that competition has often led to conflict, as municipalities across Canada have looked to ban the startup. The Competition Bureau addresses these municipalities directly in its statement, asking them to explore “less restrictive legislations.”
“The Bureau is aware that many local municipalities have raised concerns that providers of digital dispatch services, as well as the drivers that use these services, may not be in compliance with local regulations and licensing requirements that govern transportation service providers. For example, the cities of Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver recently disallowed ridesharing services, and other municipalities including the cities of Ottawa and Toronto have taken enforcement action against providers of digital dispatch services. The Bureau believes municipalities should consider whether prohibitions on digital dispatch services and ridesharing applications are necessary and explore whether less restrictive regulations could adequately address their concerns.”
Significantly, the Bureau’s statement addresses recent concerns with Uber’s service only briefly, stating that it is “not well-placed to assess safety concerns.” The statement also fails to address competition issues from digital services like Hailo, which attempted to operate under current law, but found themselves priced out by Uber. Regardless, it seems as though momentum is on Uber’s side, as in addition to the Competition Bureau, Toronto mayor-elect John Tory has recently voiced his support for the startup.