Toronto seeks court help to stop Uber taxi service, mayor opposes move

20 Nov 2014


Toronto officials intend to stop the app-based taxi service Uber in its tracks, with the help of the courts if required, to prevent the Silicon Valley company from operating in the city, but the mayor-elect has signaled he does not favour that approach, The Globe and Mail reported.

City lawyers sought injunction with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice last morning, requesting that Uber be asked to cease all operations in Toronto.

However, John Tory, in a statement late yesterday said Uber and services like it ''are here to stay.''

''It is time our regulatory system got in line with evolving consumer demands in the 21st century,'' it said. ''As Mayor, I intend to see that it does, while being fair to all parties, respecting the law and public safety.''

He clarified later through a spokeswoman that now that city staff had pushed for an injunction, the matter would work its way through the courts.

With the move, Toronto becomes the latest in a line of jurisdictions that are trying hard to regulate emerging businesses operating outside traditional business models. While Uber calls itself a ride-sharing service, according to the city's court filings, Uber was operating as a taxi and limousine broker - matching paying customers with rides - and as such should play by the same rules as everyone else.

Meanwhile, in a related development, Uber apologised after senior vice president Emil Michael made comments about purportedly creating a smear campaign against journalists who criticised the ride-sharing company. However, that that did not mean senator Al Franken was willing to forgive and forget, according to CNN. In a letter the Minnesota Democrat had urged Uber to explain its privacy policies, International Business Times reported.

Franken listed 10 questions he wanted answered by 15 December, after he heard report about a ''God view'' tool that supposedly allowed Uber to track customers and possibly journalists who wrote about the company. The company had no immediate response to Franken's letter, where Franken said recent statements by Uber executives were "troubling.'' He added that there was a ''disregard for customers' privacy, including the need to protect their sensitive geolocation data.''

Franken, who is chairman of the Subcommittee On Privacy, Technology, and the Law, added that the company had allowed employees to use customers' data for "questionable purposes'' on different occasions. The full letter can be read below.

Michael had gone public saying the company could spend a ''million dollars'' to investigate journalists, especially Sarah Lacy of PandoDaily. However, Uber is reported to have said it did not conduct any ''investigations,'' nor did it intend to in the future. "We have not, do not, and will not investigate journalists,'' a spokesperson for the company said.

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