Competition Bureau calls for relaxing taxi rules in face of competition

Ride-share services like Uber create uneven playing field
By Peter Henderson/The Canadian Press
||Last Updated: 11/26/2015

TORONTO (CP) — The Competition Bureau says local regulations on the taxi industry need to be overhauled to deal with new competition from alternatives like the ride-hailing service Uber.

New competitors have gained market share by undercutting the fixed prices of existing cabs and skirting regulations for the industry.

The bureau says that has created an uneven playing field, and that cities and provinces should balance the scales by easing rules on taxis rather than looking to increase regulations.

Canadians spent almost $1.2 billion on taxis in 2014. A report prepared by Ottawa's local authorities in October found Uber prices average around 36 per cent less than a comparable cab fare.

Cities control taxi licensing and the number of taxi permits, and in some areas the value of a so-called taxi plate has reached six digits. The Ottawa report found the cost of a single taxi plate in Toronto in 2012 was as high as $360,000.

The Competition Bureau said among other changes regulators should ease price controls and allow taxi fares to be adjusted to fit with demand, as Uber's are, remove the cap on the number of taxi plates and let additional qualified drivers work for hire, and provide incentives for drivers to operate accessible vehicles in areas where consumers are under-served.

Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto cracked down on Uber drivers, and the company has suspended its service in Calgary after a judge approved a temporary injunction against it last week.

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