EDMONTON — The city wants public input on how ride-sharing companies like Uber – and taxis – could charge fares under the proposed new Vehicle for Hire Bylaw.
An online survey has been posted and will be open until Jan. 11.
The City of Edmonton wants the rules to help ensure a fair system for both industry and the public.
Results from the survey – as well as feedback from the taxi industry and Uber – will be included in a report to council when the proposed bylaw goes for a second reading on Jan. 26.
The new rules, which would allow private transportation providers like Uber to operate legally in Edmonton, will not come into effect until after the bylaw receives three readings.
An Edmonton man spoke out after a New Year’s Eve Uber ride from Mill Woods to St. Albert cost him $1,114.
Matthew Lindsay said the trip included three stops. He said he was notified about the surge pricing and the estimated price per kilometre for the group’s first stop, but not for the second and third stops.
Lindsay said he was “shocked, physically shocked” by the final bill, which detailed the “normal fare” would have been $125.08 but was boosted by an 8.9-time surge pricing.
Lindsay emailed Uber to demand a refund and the company replied it had done nothing wrong and that it always pushes a notification screen on the app before it can fulfil a trip request. The company said that is how it ensures passengers have agreed to the so-called surge pricing.
Similar complaints were reported in other Canadian cities.
“I shouldn’t have to compromise my mortgage payment for an Uber ride,” he said.
Lindsay eventually told Uber he was open to discussing a partial refund and Uber later offered him $500.
The City of Edmonton does not currently regulate ride-sharing technologies. The chief licensing officer said the city is trying to keep up with changes in technology and the subsequent customer expectations. However, in the meantime, Garry Dwizenka stresses riders should consider legal options such as taxis.
One city councillor said he wasn’t shocked to hear about the surge pricing on New Year’s Eve. Andrew Knack was glad to hear Lindsay got a partial refund, but doesn’t think it’s the city’s place to ban surge pricing.
“I think that should be up to the customers to decide,” said Knack. “You look at the way the taxi industry has operated in areas of peak demand like they would have had on New Year’s; what you were guaranteed your rate. What you weren’t guaranteed was your pick-up time. You could have been waiting upwards of three hours on New Year’s Eve.
He said there could be people who are willing to pay two or three times what they might normally pay to get a ride home sooner.
“I don’t know if that’s something council really needs to get involved in,” said Knack. “I think that’s something the consumer can make the decision for themselves.”
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