Beleaguered ridesharing firm says the regulatory chill will ‘lead to higher costs, less innovation and fewer choices for consumers’
Uber warned of “significant changes” on prices and longer wait times, as new rules to end one of Canada’s biggest urban taxi services became reality.
On Thursday, the city of Toronto announced the departure of Uber from the market, after months of a city review into how to phase out the ride-hailing firm. Taxi industry critics had long called for Uber to leave Toronto, saying it had artificially inflated taxi prices to protect itself from competition.
The move represents a major victory for taxi drivers, who were locked in an escalating public battle with Uber’s parent company, Uber Technologies, but is likely to lead to higher prices, longer wait times and fewer options in one of the largest metropolises in North America.
Tony Carroll, a drivers’ leader for Unifor, Canada’s biggest union, said the move will likely put pressure on taxi drivers to increase their earnings. “I’m really thrilled that the city has done this, and I think that it’s going to serve us well,” he said.
Anthony Di Iorio, Uber’s general manager for Canada, said the firm was “disappointed” by the decision, but pleased the city “has chosen common sense over ideology”.
“From a company perspective, we must move forward, and look for new models to improve safety and long-term ride experience for our riders and drivers,” he said.
Doug Ford, Toronto’s mayor, used his annual pre-Christmas news conference to announce the new rules for Uber in Toronto, which include requiring the company to work with the taxi industry on a joint ad campaign and full implementation of an online taxi booking system for passengers.
Vanessa Cruz, a vocal critic of Uber, welcomed the taxi strike’s conclusion. “Uber’s going to be in this city for a long time to come. They’re going to show up in our neck of the woods too. It’s about our safety – it’s about having to drive up a hill and keeping a set of car keys in the pocket of your pants,” she said.
MaryAnn Mihychuk, the Toronto city councillor who chairs the committee overseeing the city’s taxi industry, said the decision meant the city could finally start the next phase of a review into how to rationalise the city’s transport services.
“We can now begin the work of identifying where efficiencies can be found to best deliver the community benefits of public transit and mobility options, while protecting our community from over-regulation of ride-hailing companies,” she said.
The international effort by Uber to fight back against increased competition came to a dramatic end on Thursday when the company’s agreement to work on a joint advertising campaign with the taxi industry fell apart. Uber cancelled the agreement with the public-sector Toronto Taxi Alliance in response to the city’s decision.
A spokesperson for Uber said the company “decided to end this agreement”, in order to “prepare for our new services in Toronto”.
Uber, Lyft and rival services like Lyft and Juno have taken root in cities across North America and around the world, but have faced opposition as they try to enter major cities where traditional taxis are dominant.
In the UK, Uber won a four-year battle with passenger group Passenger Focus over the treatment of its drivers, ensuring that thousands of drivers’ rights would be enshrined in law.
But Uber’s struggles in the US and Canada have also come with their share of blowbacks, highlighted by the protests in cities such as London and Seattle, where drivers have held a rolling strike in recent months.
In 2016, drivers in Seattle struck for two weeks over low pay and other issues, and a week later, the city saw an increase in Uber ridership of about 10%.