To the editor,
A $100 million dollar lawsuit has been filed by more than 200 Mississauga taxi owners against the City, arising from significant losses associated with the presence of Uber. We are represented by Michael Binetti, an associate of Affleck Greene & McMurtry LLP.
Prior to filing our action, we requested compensation from the City in the amount of $50,000 each - a more than reasonable amount given the extent of our losses. While sympathetic to our plight, the City demurred, claiming their hands were tied by provisions contained in the Municipal Act that prevent them paying any compensation whatsoever. This left us with no choice but to sue.
Our losses stemmed from the illegal incursion of Uber, which operated in direct contravention of the Public Vehicle Licensing Bylaw with impunity. Longstanding taxi regulations, in place for decades, were totally ignored, exacerbated by the City’s failure to enforce the Bylaw. Given free rein, Uber quickly captured a lion’s share of the vehicle for-hire market at our considerable expense.
Our lawsuit seeks to mitigate the gross injustice we have suffered.
Peter D. Pellier,
To the editor,
While answering some enquiries from a member of the Mississauga taxicab industry involving their impending civil case, I responded in part, with the following:
Municipalities always state that they do not owe taxicab members anything, as they have the right to license the industry as they deem fit.
It is my opinion this can be challenged in court. The contents in Chapter 546 of Toronto’s bylaw are, in essence, a social contract with our industry. We spent decades building a business on the contents of that and previous by-laws, which included the City’s promises that for our years of service, we would be entitled to use this municipal business license as our pension plan, which has now been eradicated by the inclusion of the unfettered vehicle access to the taxicab marketplace by PTC operators
The restrictions of Chapter 546 are far more than any other business license that the City issues, i.e. what make of vehicles are allowed; how many hours you are allowed to work in any 12-hour period; mandated tariffs; tariffs cannot be altered and many others, none of which were applied when Uber entered the taxicab marketplace, therefore making it impossible for taxicab members to compete with PTC operators. With the social contract proven, then a “tort” becomes applicable.
Municipalities have always taken the position, they can license our industry in any manner they deem fit, hiding behind public safety, regardless of the eventual outcome of their actions.
With the dramatic increase of criminal acts committed against the public by PTC operators, the City’s claims of public safety are laughable at best.
Only a few short years ago, the City’s claims of entitlement to do what they want when they want with respect to taxicab licensing were proven to be wrong in a court of law.
At the time the City of Toronto was taking steps to make the entire taxicab industry wheelchair accessible vans. The taxicab industry membership knew this move would financially ruin their business so the City was challenged in court. The court sided on the side of the taxicab industry membership and stopped the City’s plans in this area.
In this ruling, the courts recognized the fact that the City of Toronto does not have autonomy to do what they want when they want to and in the court’s findings, it also recognized that the taxicab industry does have certain financial rights EVEN THOUGH THE TAXICAB INDUSTRY COMES UNDER MUNICIPAL BUSINESS LICENSING CONTROL.
So, my question for the Toronto and Mississauga taxi owners’ lawyer Michael Binetti would be, doesn’t the situation on how the City is dealing with its taxicab industry surrounding PTC’s mirror what they attempted to do with making the entire taxicab industry wheelchair accessible vans? Surely the court’s decision gives merit to certain financial rights that the taxicab industry members have regarding their City issued business licenses. As the industry’s claims in this case pointed out, if the City was allowed to proceed, IT WOULD FINANCIALLY RUIN THE TAXICAB INDUSTRY’S ABILITY TO EARN A LIVING.
A thought worthy of discussion with the Mississauga and Toronto taxi owners’ legal counsel.
Gerald H. Manley
To the editor,
(Editor’s note: The following is an email exchange between taxi owners Al Prior and Peter Pellier.)
At fist it seems far fetched to make such a claim.
Big stars in the music industry are being sued. This is going on right now, in the big scale music industry (like Katy Perry being sued) see link:
The taxi industry does not have a copyright on our business model but it is most certainly an established model all over the world. In my opinion the use of the Internet by TNC’s created nothing that is original and they stole an established business model.
In the music world, Uber and the like would pay damages in a successful law suit.
Secondly and more importantly, the regulators who enforced this business model knowingly encouraged this infringement. Major financial and proprietary damages to the taxi brand have been the result.
The topic is hot right now in the courts regarding “the music business”. Give this a little extra thought and it might not seem so outlandish. Governments are holding an “understood copyright “ that we call a social contract.
Remember nothing new was created by Uber. False impressions and promises of autonomous cars were made to make it sound different. In this case we are looking at public brand awareness and not public safety, although public safety is a key issue within the brand.
It is ok for an artist to copy someone’s music but, and a big but, they must pay royalties. In this case, with taxis, the royalties are being collected by the municipality as in the per trip royalty.
That would be completely illegal since the government can only be reimbursed for costs incurred. The actual business model belongs to the taxi industry. The government has never provided any subsidy or any paycheck to taxi drivers. The royalties should have been awarded to the taxi industry. I believe it would be the same claim in the taxi industry anywhere in the world.
Al, Kudos on drawing an excellent analogy between the music biz and the cab biz.
Couldn’t agree more with your assessment that Uber, aided and abetted by our regulators, stole our business, due to slick marketing, in combination with the ability to undercut our prices. They literally conned the politicians into maintaining a hands-off approach, enabling Uber to pull off the biggest corporate rape of all time.
All this without paying a single penny in royalties.
Hopefully, the courts will expose Uber’s sleight-of-hand for what it is, and, in doing so, deem our regulators culpable.