November 3, 2014 4:03 pm
Updated: November 3, 2014 11:01 pm

Undercover enforcement officers to police non-licensed Uber drivers

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WATCH: The provincial government says if the ride-sharing service Uber launches in Vancouver, it will use undercover inspectors to catch drivers without the proper licenses. Leigh Kjekstad reports.

B.C.’s transportation minister says dozens of undercover enforcement officers will be out to police anyone who tries to provide a taxi-like service without a proper licence.

Todd Stone’s statement follows rumours that taxi app Uber was planning to start operating in Vancouver again as of last Friday.

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Uber is an app-driven ride share service that has become increasingly popular in major cities around the world. The company was forced to retreat from Vancouver in 2012, due to heavy regulation in the taxi industry. However, they’ve been hiring employees in the area, despite a six-month moratorium placed on Uber by municipal government.

As of Friday, the ministry of transportation has not been made aware of any Uber transactions. Meanwhile, the company says it is looking forward to coming to Vancouver.

Uber released the following statement to Global News:

With tens of thousands of people opening the Uber app, we know that residents of the Vancouver area are clamoring for the safe and sensible transportation choices that Uber already provides in over 220 cities around the world.

It is unfortunate that the local taxi lobby is so intent on spreading misinformation regarding Uber’s record.  Here are the facts: in every city in which we operate, our background check standards and insurance coverage meet or exceed what is required of taxis.  For example, in Toronto, Uber candidates are screened over their lifetime for potential DUI, traffic or sex offenses, whereas local taxis companies are only required to screen going back five years.  Similarly, Uber insures every ride end-to-end with our best-in-class $5 million insurance policy, whereas Toronto taxis are only required to carry $2 million in liability insurance.

In countless cities, Uber has worked with policymakers to craft a regulatory framework that recognizes the benefits of ridesharing for drivers, riders and the community at large.  We look forward to doing the same in Vancouver.

Stone says there are very specific requirements that are detailed and provided by the passenger transportation branch, which is the licensing authority in B.C. for taxi and limousine services.

“These standards are all about protecting the travelling public,” he says. “They are about ensuring the safe transpiration of passengers in communities across British Columbia.”

And Uber must comply with those requirements in order to be licensed, he adds, or face hefty fines.

“If you are a driver and you are found to be operating a taxi-like service without a licence, you could face a minimum fine of $1,150. That fine escalates for multiple offenders up to a maximum of $5,000,” says Stone. “Those are significant fines. We believe that they will provide a deterrence that is required.”

WATCH: Uber vying to get back on Vancouver roads

But it seems some Vancouverties were eagerly anticipating the re-launch of the service that’s enjoying a lot of popularity in cities around the world.

Some Tweeted ahead of the alleged Halloween re-launch:

Despite the hype, Stone says offenders will be monitored by enforcement agencies, which he specifically directed to be “on the ready” for the potential launch of an Uber-like service in British Columbia.

“We will be out there in full force through the passenger transportation branch and commercial vehicle safety enforcement branch,” he says. “If we begin receiving reports that they are operating here in British Columbia, we will have enforcement officers in an undercover manner, who will use the app and they will ensure that drivers are properly licensed and if they are not licensed, they will be fined.”

The NDP has gone as far as to say they will introduce legislation to up the maximum fine for someone operating a taxi-like service without a proper permit from $5,000 to $20,000.

Stone says he is not certain the legislation path is the most effective.

“I believe that through heightened enforcement and awareness, we can get the message out to British Columbians you must be licensed by the passenger transportation branch. It is not good enough to stand up and say we believe that we provide a safe service.”

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