B.C. contacting car lease agencies amid crackdown on ridesharing
The B.C. government is taking an unusual approach to cracking down on underground ride-hailing firms by getting in touch with the company that owns their vehicles.
Letters obtained by CTV News show the Passenger Transportation Branch is not just sending cease and desist orders to drivers working with these Uber-like apps – it’s also sending letters to the people leasing them cars.
“It was quite a shock to us,” said Mike Gignac of Richmond Chrysler Dodge Jeep, who said his dealership received a letter last year.
The letter claimed one of Gignac’s 2016 Jeep Wranglers was being used as a rideshare vehicle -- against Gignac’s contract -- and the driver could be liable for thousands in fines.
“We contacted the driver, and sent an e-mail reminding him that that’s against the conditions of our contract,” Gignac told CTV News. “He said he would cease and desist.”
It’s one of at least ten letters sent by the PTB, along with some two dozen warnings sent to the drivers directly.
Even though the B.C. government is exploring legalizing and regulating ride-hailing services, it’s cracking down on those services in the meantime.
The most recognized company, Uber, is still not allowed to operate in B.C. But that hasn’t stopped small upstart companies from claiming their share in a voracious market for the service.
Companies such as RacoonGo and Udi Kuache have launched apps that connect drivers and passengers just like Uber does.
The province has issued 30 violation tickets to drivers at $1,150 each, for a total of $34,500. Only a fifth of those fines – or about $6,900 -- have been paid.
Approaching leasing companies could lead them to ask for their cars back.
But the real risk of driving one of these vehicles could be the liability they’re assuming in the event of a crash, said lawyer Adam Ueland of Simpson, Thomas and Associates. He told CTV News a driver could be on the hook for millions in a crash if he’s at fault.
And if the passenger can be shown to have known the ride-hailing service wasn’t covered, they too could be on the hook for his or her own injuries.
“If you have knowledge that you’re involved in an illegal activity, or you know there’s no insurance, your claim can be denied,” Ueland said.
ICBC does offer insurance for ride-hailing services, but it’s contingent on a license from the Passenger Transportation Board, which has never granted one.