Federal Competition Bureau calls for rethink of B.C. taxi regulations - InfoNews

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Federal Competition Bureau calls for rethink of B.C. taxi regulations

The Uber app is displayed on an iPhone as taxi drivers wait for passengers at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Tuesday March 7, 2017. The federal Competition Bureau wants British Columbia to re-examine its taxi regulations to permit more competition in the industry and improve services for riders and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
February 04, 2019 - 4:30 PM

VICTORIA - Fair regulations and wide-open markets should be the main drivers behind the British Columbia government's move to accommodate both the taxi industry and ride-hailing services, says the federal Competition Bureau.

The agency called on the provincial government Monday to re-examine its taxi regulations to permit more competition in the industry, while improving services for riders and businesses.

It urges an all-party legislative committee reviewing transportation network services to level the playing field for taxis and ride-hailing providers. The select standing committee on Crown corporations was asked last year to provide recommendations on regulations for transportation network services for the legislature by March 31.

"The main recommendations we are making are that markets will often deliver the best outcomes on their own, and so instead of taking a look at whether we can regulate the price at which fares are set, let the market determine that," said bureau spokeswoman Leila Wright.

A level playing field means transportation network service regulations and rules must apply equally to taxis and ride-hailing companies, she said.

The bureau submitted its recommendations to the eight-member B.C. committee in writing.

Its recommendations include ensuring that regulations are fair and do not favour either taxi providers or ride-hailing platforms, that drivers have the flexibility to choose their own service areas and to allow market forces to decide the number of drivers and fares.

Wright said the Competition Bureau, which is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Competition Act, often offers advice to ensure consumers prosper from market competition.

"What I can say is that there are real benefits for consumers when ride-sharing companies enter a market," she said.

The B.C. government introduced legislation last year that aims to introduce ride-hailing later this year.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the legislation will amend eight statutes and give the Passenger Transportation Board expanded powers to accept applications and set terms and conditions for licences covering taxis and ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft.

A spokesman for the group Ridingsharing Now for BC said the Competition Bureau recommendations reflect the wishes of most people and businesses in B.C.

"Let's get going with ride sharing here and let competition and the market decide on factors such as pricing and geographic areas and number of drivers," said Ian Tostenson.

He said the Competition Bureau's report is "refreshing," and puts pressure on the standing committee to move quickly to support ride hailing.

The B.C. Taxi Association said the Competition Bureau's submission is one of hundreds the committee will receive. Association president Mohan Singh Kang said his association also provided a written report to the committee.

"From 2012, we have said the same thing," he said. "We have no problem with any transportation network company ... to come to B.C. provided they meet the safety standards and there's an even playing field. There's no reason why somebody should be given special privileges for cherry picking."

The B.C. legislation requires driver training and class four licences instead of the class five used by most drivers in B.C.

Class four licences are required to drive taxis, ambulances and small buses with 25 or fewer passengers.

Committee chairwoman, New Democrat Bowinn Ma, was not immediately available for comment.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2019
The Canadian Press

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