Setting the record straight for our Calgary supporters

Dear Calgary supporters,

We are disappointed that City Council passed regulations that will not see Uber return to Calgary at this time. That said, we will continue to evaluate our options and monitor the Calgary market for opportunities to engage in thoughtful dialogue.

We believe it is a privilege to operate in any market, and do everything we can to engage with lawmakers and regulators to help develop progressive regulations that allow for flexible income opportunities for drivers and safe, reliable rides for the public. This was no different with Calgary, where we frequently met and corresponded with the city, expressing our positions on the bylaw and offering suggestions on how it could open the market up to ridesharing.

That is why it is troublesome to see assertions made about Uber in the press and on social media suggesting that we were not aiming to be constructive in the regulatory process or that we do not endorse background screenings, vehicle inspections and fees to the city as they already exist in regulations in over 70 jurisdictions.

We want to set the record straight so you know what we have done throughout this process and highlight why smart rules matter and the implications of bad regulations.

Thank you for your support along the way.

Ramit Kar, General Manager, Uber Calgary



False Assertion: The cost of the provisions would never have exceeded $600 per driver, and that Uber has made up these numbers

Response: On Feb. 8, the city posted on its blog a summary of its proposed changes. As you can see, they estimate that the cost could be as high as $633 per driver. This does not include the time and cost required by a partner to get a Class 4 license, which is around $140. As such, the total cost to a Calgary resident looking to partner with a ridesharing company would be between $713-773. The amendment on vehicle inspections reduces the fee by between $149-179.

False Assertion: Uber left three markets (Kansas, San Antonio and Broward County), and returned to those markets after they passed rules that are more onerous than Calgary’s

Response: Following ridesharing’s exit of the three markets, each passed progressive laws for ridesharing. This resulted in the resumption of operations for Uber and Lyft. All three markets have significantly less onerous regimes without compromising safety:

  • None require chauffeur’s permits
  • All recognize ridesharing’s background screening process
  • All at most require one annual vehicle inspection relying upon Uber’s standard inspection
  • None require fees to be absorbed by the driver

False Assertion: Uber “[doesn’t] believe in a police check or vehicle inspections.”

Response: Uber believes background screening is a part of a comprehensive safety regime. That is why every potential partner is required to pass a thorough screening before they are allowed on the platform.  

In a letter to the mayor and council on February 5, we explained that we use a thorough background screening process and how our technology makes it possible to focus on safety for riders and drivers before, during, and after every trip in ways that have never been possible before. See an excerpt here:

Background screening is only one part of this comprehensive safety regime, which is completed for each potential driver before they can be allowed onto the platform. On Uber’s behalf, background check providers search the RCMP’s Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) for an individual’s information that has been logged in the National Repository of Criminal Records, and local police records that are archived via the Police Information Portal (PIP) and Firearms Interest Person (FIP) databases. In the FIP database there are over 62,000 records of material, local police interactions that have been automatically collected from the Calgary Police Service’s records. If during a search the background check provider determines that the individual has an offence or record in those databases, the individual is unable to partner with Uber as a driver. A review of the individual’s driver history is also completed to ensure that only those with safe driving records are eligible to provide service.

This is a thorough search that checks against criminal convictions and local police interactions captured by those databases. It is the standard for organizations that have national or province-wide operations. The Girl Guides of Canada, Coaches of Canada, Alberta Hockey and Alberta College of Paramedics are just a few of the organizations who rely upon this type of background check.

We are also in favour of vehicle inspections. In fact, we require them of our partners. We advocated in that same letter for a more reasonable approach that recognizes that the vast majority of Uber partners are providing ridesharing services less than 10 hours a week, rather than requiring an expensive, time consuming inspection required for salvage vehicles. The city’s proposed vehicle inspection would be akin to requiring a fire inspection of every house that is listed on AirBnB. Moreover, we believe that the city should recognize that the app prompts for the rider to rate each ride before being able to book another trip, meaning that virtually every trip is an inspection of sorts. We take feedback from riders seriously; in particular, safety-related concerns are dealt with most urgently, and drivers or vehicles can be restricted from the platform until an issue can be resolved appropriately.

False Assertion: Uber has never posed an alternative fee structure, but instead is looking for the Calgary taxpayer to subsidize our operations

Response:  We have always expressed an interest in discussing a fee model that works for both the city and ridesharing, understanding the the city’s stated desire to cover its incremental administrative costs.

In a letter to council on February 21, we asked that, instead of voting on a problematic fee structure, council direct staff to have more engagement with the ridesharing industry to develop progressive rules for ridesharing, including:

“Flat and or per-trip fees to ensure that the City receives appropriate revenue to compensate for its expenses while not creating barriers for drivers to provide service. Edmonton established a flat licence fee of $50,000 for companies like Uber plus a per trip fee of $0.06/trip.”

The reason for our proposed fee structure was explained to council on February 5. See the details here:

Under the proposed rules, local residents are being required to pay up to [approximately $600] per year to simply be registered as drivers. Sixty two percent of ridesharing drivers in Alberta drive less than ten hours a week in a week that they choose to drive. Additionally, many partners join the platform for very short periods and specific reasons, to help pay for an unanticipated home repair or to buy a new computer for school. Per driver fees and expenses create significant barriers for the vast majority of occasional drivers who help make ridesharing a reliable service, especially during peak hours when drinking establishments are closing.

For that reason, the standard for jurisdictions that regulate ridesharing is to require a fee that is paid by the ridesharing company. Those fees provide regulators with revenue relative to the size, and regulatory cost, of the business. Moreover, it does not penalize drivers who register to provide ridesharing service but do not drive for a substantial period of time for one reason or another.

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