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Consumer group slams Toronto councillor’s ride-hailing proposal

A councillor in Canada’s largest metropolis believes road safety cannot be achieved without implementing the city’s own testing and training programs for ride-hailing drivers — even if that means putting a pause on those services indefinitely while formulating the protocols. 

Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto Centre councillor for Ward 13, fell just short of the majority required to debate her motion that would ban the licensing of any new ride-hailing drivers until the city approves an accreditation program.

Read the full article here

A Europe without the sharing economy: scary tale or real future?

The latest legal challenges to Uber are yet another example of policymakers giving sharing economy platforms an unnecessarily hard time despite the flexibility and independence they offer both workers and consumers.

Uber’s fight for existence in Brussels is a win-or-lose moment for the sharing economy in the European Union. The clash comes at a time when steadfast legislative and court actions across the bloc aim to reclassify platform workers as employees and upend opportunities for contractors. Unless the worrying trend is reversed, European consumers will find themselves cut off from innovation and choice.

The current Brussels Uber ban is based on an archaic 1995 law that prohibits drivers from using smartphones. While it should be a great shame for all of Belgium that such a law has remained untouched till today, it is also hardly surprising. Brussels’ taxi lobby has long been unhappy with the emergence of ridesharing, and these restrictions play to their benefit.

Uber began operating in Brussels in 2014 and had to continuously resist the system and fight back through costly court appeals and restrictions to survive. In 2015, the Belgian commercial court banned UberPOP — a traditional peer-to-peer service — by ruling in favour of Taxis Verts, a cab firm, just to name one example. Since then, Uber drivers have had to get a special licence to operate, which made the service more expensive and less accessible.

However, consumers in Brussels still enjoy the services of Uber. Over 1200 residents of the EU capital signed a petition against the smartphone ban, arguing that “there is no valid and digital alternative to the platform in Brussels at the moment”. On the supply side, there are currently about 2000 drivers using the Uber app. The fact that the Brussels government is selectively enforcing an old law only now, after multiple attempts to get rid of Uber, shows that the company crossed the Rubicon of success, and it has become too inconvenient and competitive to the taxi lobby.

Recently, in Brussels, there have also been calls to reclassify self-employed drivers as employees. This witch hunt after the gig economy mirrors the recent Dutch court ruling about employment benefits for ridesharing drivers and Spanish “riders” law, which concerns the status of delivery workers. Under the pretence of providing security and stability, these interventions threaten the very nature of the sharing economy and are oblivious to the drivers’ needs and flexibility.

Sharing economy platforms give their contractors flexibility and independence, and that is exactly what those choosing to ride share or deliver food are seeking. By surveying 1,001 active Uber drivers in London, a 2018 study by the University of Oxford and Lund University found that they joined the platform because of autonomy, scheduling flexibility, or improved work-life balance that the sharing economy provides. Moreover, the flexibility was so valuable to them that they would only accept fixed schedules on the condition of significant earnings increases.

Being an independent contractor is linked with “greater enjoyment of daily activities, a decrease in psychological strain, and a greater ability to face problems”, according to a study at the Paris School of Economics. In pursuit of “better” labour standards, it is easy to forget that value is subjective, and that one size doesn’t fit all. Drivers who make a living through platforms make a conscious choice in favour of flexibility and autonomy, and their freedom to do so must be preserved.

By providing value to thousands of consumers and giving platform contractors a chance to plan their time better through alternative work arrangements, the sharing economy makes our lives easier, better, and more exciting. But some European policymakers are giving the sharing economy in the EU — and especially ridesharing — a hard time, which it doesn’t deserve. It’s time for that to stop.

Originally published here

Gov. Newsom’s ‘petitions’ + Prop. 22 backers reunite to lobby + CalChamber’s vaccine campaign

COALITION REFORMS ‘TO PROTECT APP-BASED DRIVERS’

Last year, gig economy giants like Uber and Lyft built a coalition of organizations to help them pass Proposition 22, the initiative that generally exempted them from the new California law that requires businesses to give employment benefits to more workers. 

Now, the Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Coalition is uniting again to lobby for “access to independent, app-based work, and preserve the availability, affordability, and reliability of on-demand app-based rideshare and delivery services that are essential to California’s economy,” according to a group statement.

Its first target is Assembly Bill 286, which caps charges for a food facility’s use of a platform such as DoorDash to 15% of an online order’s purchase price. The bill is authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego. Gonzalez wrote also wrote Assembly Bill 5, the employment law that was weakened by Prop. 22 last fall.

“As an immediate priority, the coalition is actively working to oppose legislation that would restrict access to app-based work and services such as Assembly Bill 286, which would impose unworkable new regulations on app-based delivery services that would raise consumer prices, decrease customers for restaurants, and reduce earning opportunities for drivers,” the group said in a statement.

Members of the coalition include the Congress on Racial Equality, the National Taxpayers Union, the California Narcotics Officers Association, the Consumer Choice Center, Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart.

Originally published here.

Ban cycling and walking to help Brussels’ taxis

The recent decision to ban Uber from the streets of Brussels was very clearly a political move to support the taxi industry and the transport unions. As such, it makes sense to also introduce some extra measures to support the taxi industry further – namely by removing any extra unfair and undue competition from the streets.

To this end, I propose that Minister President Rudi Vervoort should also consider banning other competition to the cities taxis. Namely; cycling, driving and walking. Such measures could just as easily be justified for safety or environmental reasons.

The easiest of all these would be cars. It would be environmentally prudent to ban cars from the streets of Brussels as not only do they pollute our planet by releasing greenhouse gases from their exhaust, but also because they clog up the streets and prevent taxi’s from taking their clients from point A to B in good time.

Further still are the safety implications, in 2019 there were 3,924 traffic accidents in Brussels, and 37,699 in the entire of Belgium. It’s clear that people cannot be trusted to own and drive their own cars, so perhaps Minister President Vervoort should consider banning them altogether for the sake of public safety.

Equally it’s clear that bicycles are a hazard to the public. Cyclists make up 15% of road traffic accident victims. In 2019, a total of 95 cyclists were killed in accidents. It’s clear that people cannot be trusted to cycle safely. What’s more is that they are increasingly becoming a nuisance to taxi drivers, with more and more road space in the city being selfishly given over to cyclists. Which means that there are less roads for taxi’s to stop and pick people up from.

Finally, in order to well and truly break the competitive racket that is preventing taxi drivers from doing their jobs, the Brussels Regional Government should consider implementing new regulations to ban walking within the city. Pedestrians are increasingly taking over the roads, with areas such as Grand Place, Rue Neuve, and Boulevard Anspach being turned over the two footed hoards – when before it was the free domain of the automobile.

Of course none of these suggestions should be taken seriously, and indeed nor should the protectionist ban on Uber either. There are serious points to be made, both of the image of the city and of the ease of use.

In the first instance, the banning of Uber has made Brussels look like a technophobic city, afraid to embrace the opportunities afforded too it by the fourth industrial revolution. Already Brussels lags behind many other global cities when it comes to the fourth industrial revolution. 

According to the Consumer Choice Centre, Brussels ranked lower than Tallin, Riga, Vilnius, Tbilisi, Moscow, Kyiv, Warsaw and Helsinki in their sharing economy index.

The second point to make is the way in which the ban disproportionally affects younger denizens of Brussels – millennials and zoomers in particular. Increasingly young people are turning away from driving, with those of us who live in the city centre not seeing the need to own a car at all. Using Uber was an easy, and much cheaper, way of getting around, especially to those places which are not serviced by Brussels very limited mass transit system.

Uber could pick you up from any neighbourhood, which is a bonus when quite often there aren’t conventional taxis around – especially late at night/early in the morning.

By way of a recent example. For me to get to a recent hospital appointment, I had a choice between a taxi, an Uber and metro. The taxi would have cost me €20 more than the Uber and had me arrive in the same amount of time. Whilst the metro would have been cheaper, it would have added an extra 20 minutes to my journey – additionally it would not have been socially distanced.

In pre-COVID times, Uber was also the most convenient route for most people to get to and from the airport as well. Quicker than the train, and much more convenient when carrying large bags, whilst at the same time an average €40 cheaper than the taxis. Visitors to Brussels in the future will now be greeted by a €60 taxi fee when they want to travel to the city centre – not a very welcoming prospect.

The ban on Uber was, and still is, an idiotic move by the government of Brussels. The city now looks technologically backwards, expensive and consumer unfriendly. The regional government should seriously reconsider the ban, or at the very least liberalise the licence system to allow more competition in the market outside of the state monopoly. If former soviet states can do it, then so can liberal Belgium.

Originally published here.

California’s political leaders are pushing rideshare companies and consumers will suffer

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San Francisco, CA – On Wednesday, the CEO of Uber said that if California’s AB5 law is carried out against rideshare firms, the company will consider pulling all of its services from the state.

Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a consumer advocacy group, calls it a “sad day” for California rideshare consumers drivers.

“Through AB5 and similar legislation, California’s politicians have been sending the signal that rideshare companies are not welcome in the Golden State. But that’s not what consumers want,” said Ossowski. “The flexible model that has so far propelled the growth of companies like Uber, Lyft, and others has been beneficial for both drivers who want independence and consumers who want convenience and competitive prices.

“If Uber and other companies shut down in California, it will prove that the state is no longer a hotbed of innovation, but rather the place where innovation goes to die. It’s unfortunate that millions of Californians will be deprived of more choice if that happens. The same has also proven true for the thousands of freelancers who now find themselves out of work.

“California politicians may have the noblest of intentions, but forcing rideshare companies to become taxi companies does nothing but help the taxi cartel maintain its monopoly and deprive people of earning a living on their own terms.

“Hopefully, voters will choose to support Prop 22 in the fall to reverse course and restore the ability of drivers and other freelancers to earn a living how they want,” said Ossowski.

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The Consumer Choice Center represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva, and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

CONTACT:

Yaël Ossowski

Deputy Director

Consumer Choice Center

yael@consumerchoicecenter.org

‘It’s embarrassing’: Advocates say we’ve waited long enough for ride-hailing

NEWS 1130: David Clement with the Consumer Choice Center says he suspects ride-hailing hasn’t already been approved in B.C. because the government is under pressure to protect the status quo.

‘I’m horrified’: reaction pours in to Greyhound service cancellations

NEWS 1130: The Consumer Choice Center’s David Clement is echoing Christian’s statements, calling for Uber and Lyft to finally be allowed in the province.

C’est la régulation qui nuit aux chauffeurs de taxis, pas la concurrence

L’ECHO: Les crises de colère lancées par les chauffeurs de taxi à travers le monde, en ce qui concerne les services de covoiturage tels que Uber ou Heetch, sont révélatrices d’un monopole moribond. Si votre chauffeur de taxi n’était pas en colère contre l’économie du partage, alors cette dernière ne serait pas efficace.

Οι οδηγοί ταξί κινδυνεύουν από τις ρυθμίσεις, όχι από την καινοτομία

LIBERAL.GR: Taxi drivers are at risk from regulation, not from innovation, writers Bill Wirtz of the Consumer Choice Center.

Taxi Drivers Are Persecuted by Regulation, Not Innovation

FEE: The drivers see themselves as victims of innovation when actually the complete opposite is the case: regulation is holding them back.

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