Hamilton Uber drivers face harsh legal penalties

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The City of Hamilton, Ont. issued a warning Thursday saying drivers for the ride-share program Uber could face steep fines and loss of their car insurance.

Uber held a driver-recruitment open house in Hamilton on Wednesday, but the city quickly issued its warning to anyone flouting the municipality’s taxi regulations.

The city says Uber’s rules conflict with its own bylaws, which requires licenses for drivers, owners, vehicles, and brokers of taxis and “taxi-like” services.

Hamilton taxis cannot be older than six years, but Uber allows vehicles dating back to 2005. City cabs also require on-board GPS, computerized meters, taxi insurance, and semi-annual or annual inspections, among other criteria.

“We share the opinion of other municipalities that Uber would be operating as a taxicab service,” city licensing director Ken Leenderste said in a press release.

“As such, they are required to register with the municipality as a broker and are subject to the same provincial and municipal regulations — and penalties — that ensure consumer protection of residents and visitors, and ensure the health and safety of passengers and drivers.”

Uber drivers caught in violation of city laws could face up to 17 charges and fines as much as $4,725, plus another victim surcharge in the range of $800.

Uber, which currently operates cars in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, and Halifax, has so far faced a rough ride in Canada and internationally. It took severe flak for its “surge pricing” on New Year’s Eve and has faced criticism over its privacy and safety. Taxi drivers have pushed back against the service and in one ugly incident, French drivers smashed up a private Uber vehicle in Paris last January.

In India this week, the trial began for a New Delhi Uber driver accused of raping a passenger. The company is facing a lawsuit over the incident.


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