UberX Drivers Face New Insurance Challenges

Update:

Insurer asks policy holders: Are you driving for Uber?

Uber drivers risk two (2) separate and distinct charges under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act: Operating a commercial motor vehicle without proper insurance, and picking up a passenger for compensation without an appropriate licence. The potential penalties include fines ranging from $300 to $20,000.
Uber drivers risk two (2) separate and distinct charges under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act: Operating a commercial motor vehicle without proper insurance, and picking up a passenger for compensation without an appropriate licence. The potential penalties include fines ranging from $300 to $20,000. Uber now states that it has about 20,000 UberX drivers operating in Toronto, double the number of licenced taxi drivers.

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Wawanesa is asking the question directly, and won’t cover drivers who are charging for rides.

Mayor John Tory is promising that sometime next year, the city will introduce regulations that level the playing field for warring Toronto taxi and UberX drivers.

While Tory says the new rules will set out insurance requirements that are “equitable” and “consistent,” at least one Canadian insurance company isn’t waiting.

In a renewal questionnaire, Wawanesa Insurance is asking policy-holders if they are using their personal vehicles to drive for Uber or Lyft. (The latter American company does not currently operate in Toronto.)

If someone checks yes, “we would proceed with cancelling that policy following the appropriate regulations pertaining to cancellations,” Wawanesa manager Anne Barton wrote in email.

“It is not our intention to provide coverage for these risks.”

“Kudos for them because they’ve actually informed their customers correctly on this topic,” Philomena Comerford, president and CEO of Baird MacGregor Insurance Brokers LP, said Wednesday.

Toronto Taxi's lined up at hotel taxi stand. Toronto politicians and taxi industry spokespeople hope that a reduced fare will make hiring a taxi an easier option for passengers.
Licensed Toronto taxi’s lined up at a post, from where they can pick-up a customer or book a call.

Uber says it now has about 20,000 UberX drivers in Toronto, double the number of licensed taxi drivers.

“Without exception, I would hazard a guess that probably every single UberX vehicle out there is relying on personal auto insurance,” Comerford said.

“I find it amazing that nobody’s worried about the fact we’re now up to 20,000 drivers, and they’re going to be busy with everybody out at parties over Christmas, and none of them are being asked if they’re carrying passengers for hire, which violates the Highway Traffic Act.”

Some insurance brokers are tweeting links to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario’s warning that “the standard Ontario Automobile Policy excludes coverage when the automobile is used to carry paying passengers or used as a taxi.”

Users “may not be protected against certain damages, losses and liabilities.”

Uber, meanwhile, is introducing a new contract that UberX drivers must sign before they can use the company’s mobile app to pick up passengers.

“We’ve updated our terms of service to more accurately reflect our business as it is today — for example, to cover new products like UberRush and UberEats, or the fact that many drivers now own their own phone,” Uber spokeswoman Susie Heath wrote in email.

“In the process we’ve also made them simpler and easier to understand, with much less jargon. There are no significant changes.”

Comerford said the new UberX driver contract makes it crystal clear “that the UberX driver is absolutely on the hook for getting commercial insurance,” policies that can cost in the range of $4,000 to $10,000 annually.

For months, the taxi industry has been demanding the city pass regulations requiring Uber to follow the same rules as cabbies and limousines.

Insurance is mandatory for taxi drivers. Prices depend on driving record or if the vehicle is on the road 24-7.

City council has voted to bring Uber into its licensing regime and requested that the company cease operating while staff draft a regulatory framework. Uber has refused and is currently operating contrary to the city’s bylaw.

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