AP Photo
AP Photo

Toronto is asking a court to order the mobile car-booking service Uber Technologies Inc. to shut down in North America’s fourth-largest city.

Uber has been operating in Toronto since 2012 without a proper license, the city of Toronto said yesterday in a statement on its website. The notice cited concerns about Uber’s operations including a lack of driver training and vehicle inspections, inadequate insurance and increased traffic from the additional cars on the road.

“The city is concerned that Uber’s operations pose a serious risk to the public, including those who are signing on as drivers,” officials said in the statement.

Uber, which allows users to summon and pay for rides with their mobile phones, has been bogged down by legal battles and protests around the world as it disrupts established taxi and limousine industries. The startup, which fetched a valuation of $17 billion in a funding round in June, has expanded to more than 220 cities since it was founded in 2009.

“With Uber, Torontonians have enjoyed real competition and greater choice,” Xavier Van Chau, a spokesman for Uber, said in an e-mail. “It’s disappointing that city bureaucrats have deployed expensive legal tactics to attempt to halt progress.”

He said the company wants to sit down with city officials to “find a common-sense approach to regulations that promote public safety.”
John Tory
John Tory, who was elected mayor of Toronto and will be sworn in next month, said that Uber and other services like it are “here to stay.”

“It is time our regulatory system got in line with evolving consumer demands in the 21st century,” Tory said in an e-mailed statement. “As mayor, I intend to see that it does, while being fair to all parties, respecting the law, and public safety.”

Toronto also cited price surging as one of the reasons for the application for a court injunction. San Francisco-based Uber sometimes charges more based on demand, which can surprise riders who are used to regulated taxi fares. The company reached a deal with New York in July to limit these tactics and cap prices during emergencies and natural disasters.

Separately, an executive at Uber is facing criticism this week for saying that a team of opposition researchers should be hired to dig up dirt on journalists who scrutinize the company.