Uber said Tuesday it would stop service in Montreal and the Quebec province next month rather than accept new government rules, the second setback in a week for the ride-hailing service’s international operations.
OTTAWA, Ontario — Uber said Tuesday it would stop service in Montreal and the Quebec province next month rather than accept new government rules, the second setback in a week for the ride-hailing service’s international operations.
On Friday, the taxi regulator in London announced that it would not renew Uber’s license, saying that the business had demonstrated a “lack of corporate responsibility.”
Until recently, Uber appeared to have reveled in ignoring local regulations as it moved into markets. But its aggressive ways, combined with a series of scandals, may be catching up with it. Last month, Dara Khosrowshahi was brought in as chief executive to replace Uber’s co-founder, Travis Kalanick, who had been forced to step down.
Quebec’s decision to dictate terms to Uber is another sign that governments and regulators are less willing to back down when faced by intimidation from the company.
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In Quebec, where Uber has sparked large protests by Montreal cabdrivers who argue that it has eroded their livelihoods by ignoring laws, the ride-hailing company has operated for a year under a special authorization while it negotiated permanent rules with the government.
Last week, Laurent Lessard, the provincial transport minister, announced conditions he was seeking in exchange for extending the program for another 12 months.
Jean-Nicolas Guillemette, the general manager of Uber Montreal, said Tuesday that the company could not accept the government’s plan to increase the minimum training for Uber drivers to 35 hours, up from 20 hours. The higher level matches the rule in Montreal for taxi drivers.
Unless the government withdraws its plan, Guillemette said, Uber would quit the province Oct. 14.
“The minister is attempting to impose old rules on a new model,” Guillemette told a news conference. “These are major changes.”
Uber has about 10,000 drivers in Montreal. Guillemette said the increased training would make it difficult to recruit new drivers, particularly those who only want to work part time.
Guillemette added that Uber can provide sufficient training in less time through alternate methods.
“We firmly believe that technology allows us to provide what the government wants in terms of training,” he said.
Uber hopes to continue discussions with the province leading up to the deadline, Guillemette said. But if the government sticks by its 35-hour rule, he added, “we’ll need to leave.”
Mathieu Goudrault, a spokesman for the transport minister, said that the 35-hour minimum would now apply to all taxi drivers in Quebec, adding that the government would not consider a lower threshold for Uber drivers. For licensed taxi drivers, the new minimum represents a considerable reduction from the previous requirement of 150 hours.
The province also wants criminal background checks on Uber drivers to be made by the police rather than by private firms. It will also require mandatory, annual vehicle inspections.
In London, Uber is appealing the decision by the transport authority to not renew the ride-hailing service’s license to operate in the city. Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief, apologized in an open letter Monday for the company’s “mistakes.”
Georges Malouf, a taxi company owner speaking on behalf of the industry in Montreal, characterized Uber’s decision as a negotiating tactic.
“Uber is not obliged to stop its operations, it’s only doing it to frustrate users and to put pressure on the government,” he said in a statement. He added that it now remains to be seen if the provincial government will stand up to the company or “fall flat under Uber’s pressure.”
Taxi drivers in Montreal and Quebec City have staged several large protests against Uber. Last October, about 1,500 cabs brought traffic in downtown Montreal to a halt.
Cabdrivers and owners also made unsuccessful attempts to obtain court injunctions to shut down Uber.