The House of Cards that is (arguably) Uber Canada Inc.

April 03, 2015 update:  The Queen’s Bench Court in Edmonton has handed down its decision regarding the City’s attempt to force Uber Canada Inc. out of business.  The Edmonton Journal has embedded a copy of the decision here:

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/edmonton/Courts+deny+attempt+stop+Uber+from+operating+Edmonton/10941441/story.html

I think it’s a terrible decision.  The judge, Queen’s Bench Justice Michelle Crighton, ram-bles on about Ray Bradbury and Star Trek but says nothing about the fact that Uber Canada claims to have insurance for those rides it also claims it is not in control of.  She just simply ignored the evidence I know for a fact the City presented (because I have a copy of it).   She ignores the fact that ‘ride-sharing’ is not in fact what the Uber app does at all; it’s a ride-for-pay app.  Judges are always a roll of the dice.  Uber Canada clearly has a fate still to be worked out here.  I think it involves insurance law-suits.

………..

………..

Note:  I include emails in full, except for repeated promo blurbs from Uber.  However, I have condensed the spacing on emails, so as to make both them and the blog page more readable.

The first thing to know about UberX in Canada is that there probably isn’t any truth at all to their claim:  http://blog.uber.com/CanadaXSafety repeated to me in several emails from Uber [1] [2] , of having insurance to cover drivers or passengers in Canada.

………….

[1]   From Feb 12, 2015:   Marnie Tunay to backgroundchecks@uber.com   Subject: background and safety checks for Canada  “Hello, there.  I was reading about your safety assurances on your web-site just now, and I noticed that the safety comments seem to be specific to the United States.  I live in Canada, and I was wondering if you could clarify for me what safety  precautions you take here?  I live in Edmonton, but I also travel in Canada.  Thank you so much. Marnie Tunay”

Reply from Sheldon McCormick on Feb 14:   “Hi Marnie,  Thanks for your interest! Safety is our top priority and we’re proud of what we’re doing to make Uber the safest way to get around your city.  Please visit http://blog.uber.com/CanadaXSafety to read about our commitment to safety in Canada.  I hope this helps! Thanks!  Sheldon  Operations Manager Uber Canada”

[2]   From Feb 17, 2015:  Marnie Tunay to Uber Support:   https://support.uber.com/hc/en-us?return_to=%2Fhc%2Fen-us%2Frequests

“Do you have insurance to cover passengers in Canada, and if so, who is your insurer, and how much coverage do you have?”

Reply from Garrett on Feb 18:  “Hi there,  Thanks for writing in about Uber and our best-in-class insurance coverage. We suggest you speak with your insurance provider regarding your policy as different plans may vary. Please note that in addition to your insurance, all uberX rides are backed by US $5,000,000 of contingent auto liability insurance covering bodily injury and property damage. For more information, you can check out our blog. If you would like to discuss these issues further we’re happy to chat in person!  We are located at 47 Fraser Ave, Toronto, ON, and our office is open during the following times:  Monday – Friday: 10AM – 9PM EDT  Saturday: 12PM – 5PM EDT All the best,  Garrett  Uber | Community Support  Be your own boss. Apply now to drive with Uber.”

Garrett at Uber would then go on in his next email exchange with me, to make a false statement regarding Uber X’s insurance  provider, claiming that it was a company called ‘Broadspire.’  [3]

[3]   From Feb 18, Marnie Tunay to Garrett at Uber:   “Thanks for your reply, Garrett.  You said: all uberX rides are backed by US $5,000,000 of contingent auto liability insurance covering bodily injury and property damage”  May I ask who the insurer is who’s backing uberX rides with $5 million in contingent auto liability insurance?  Thank you.  Marnie Tunay”

From Feb 18, Garrett to Marnie:  “Hi Marnie,  Thanks again for writing in! The insurance provider is Broadside.  If there’s anything else I can help you with, please don’t hesitate to ask. If not, Uber on!  All the best,  Garrett”

Later on Feb 18, from Marnie Tunay back to Garrett at Uber:   “Actually, Garrett, I can’t seem to find any mention of an insurance company called Broadside online.  Do they have a web site, do you know?”

 Garrett’s reply, still on Feb 18, 2015:  “Hi Marnie,  I’m sorry, that was a typo. It’s called Broadspire.  I truly apologize about the oversight.  All the best,  Garrett”

Still later on Feb 18, from Marnie Tunay back to Garrett at Uber:   “Oh, Garrett, you’ve been so patient and I thank you!  Does Broadspire have a web site I can look at or anything?  :) Thank you.  Marnie”

Garrett’s final reply to Marnie Tunay, still on February 18, 2015, confirming his statement that Uber’s “insurance provider” in Canada is a company called Broadspire:  “Hi Marnie,  They sure do! Here you go – http://www.choosebroadspire.com/global/  Best,  GarrettUber | Community Support”

And this is where it starts to get interesting, because, you see, Broadspire is not even an insurance company, as execs there later confirmed by email to me.  It’s an “independent insurance adjuster” and it is not licensed in Canada to provide insurance.

Uber then sends me a short survey asking me if I’m happy with the response I got from Garrett.

I’m not.

So, next, I hear from one Leon Mwotia, self-avowed “sales ninja”    https://angel.co/leon-mwotia-mba  and “Uber operations manager” for Canada.

The first email from Leon, on February 23, 2015:  “Hi Marnie,  My name is Leon and I’m the Community Operations Manager in Canada for Uber.  I’d like to follow-up with you to see if I could better respond to some of the questions you had about our company’s operations in Canada.  Looking forward to hearing from you or even better chatting over the phone,  thanks [sic],  Uber Leon Mwotia  Community Operations Manager, Canada”

February 23, Marnie Tunay, back at Leon Mwotia:  “Great.  You could answer my question about the insurance then. I was told by your man in Toronto that Broadspire is Uber’s “insurance provider” in Canada, a claim that Broadspire execs deny.  I found an article that says that information is “proprietary information,” but that Canadians should “rest assured” that the provider exists, which is fairly hilarious…  Now, then, who IS Uber’s Canadian “insurance provider,” please,  if Uber actually Has one, which, frankly, I’m beginning to doubt.  Marnie Tunay”

Later on February 23, from Leon back to Marnie:  Hello Marnie,  These are excellent questions. Do you have a number I could call you at to follow-up on this?”

Note the creeping deviousness, if you will:  ‘These are excellent questions.”  To justify calling me (where there would be deniability), instead of telling me in writing (where there would be accountability,) I suppose, and as a later email seems to have borne out.  I had asked him ONE question.  But, at least Leon concedes that it’s an “excellent” question.

My reply to Leon, on February 23:  “Thanks.  I think I’d like the answer in writing, if you don’t mind, Leon, just to ensure that there are no further mis-communications.  It seems like a pretty simple question to me.  Either you actually have an “A+ rated insurer” who “covers every driver in Canada up to $5 million dollars” or you don’t.  I’m not asking you how many claims you’ve had, or how many drivers you have.  I’m asking you to verify that the insurer exists.  Kind regards, Marnie Tunay”

And in reply came the last email I have ever received from Leon, or anyone else from Uber as if this writing (February 24, 2015):

From February 23, 2015 from Leon Mwotia to Marnie Tunay:   “Hello Marnie,  Thanks for writing me back.  Looking back at the exchange you had with various parties, I wanted to chat in person to express my regret for all the back and forth you’ve had on this subject. Part of the problem was that incorrect information that pertains only to our US insurance model was relayed to you, and I’m sure this caused confusion.

As a rule, we do not release our Canadian insurance policy because we consider the model competitive information. As an emerging business, we invest heavily in how our platform works and how we operate. Sharing this proprietary information would put us at a competitive disadvantage.

Our business is built on trust and we would never risk jeopardizing our reputation on commitments we couldn’t keep. As we’ve mentioned to you before, every ride on the uberX platform in Canada is backed by $5,000,000 of contingent auto liability insurance covering bodily injury and property damage.  Best,”

So, as you can readily see: Leon Mwotia, (Operations Manager for Uber in Canada), never had any intentions whatsoever of answering my question about Uber’s Canadian insur-ance provider;  although he implied that he would answer it, if only I allowed him to “follow up” with me by phone.

Leon, who has been in the work force less than seven years and whose last job by his own account:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/leonmwotia  lasted less than one year, and who is now working for a company that hasn’t been around any longer than he’s been working, nevertheless expects me and the rest of the world to just trust him, when he reiterates the insurance claims of Uber Canada Inc..

Aside from the obvious problems with that, there are several more really big ones:

(i) According to a conversation I had on February 24 with a confidential government source, you can’t insure vehicles that you don’t own.  That makes sense, when you think about it.  So either Uber owns taxis, which they have consistently denied because that would make them what they claim not to be, a taxi company, or there is no viable “contin-gent” insurance that they could be offering that covers drivers and their cars.  In fact, the only insurance that UberX  could possibly have for their taxi drivers in Canada is insurance that covers butts at Uber, and nowhere else.

Which brings us to the next major point about their insurance claims:  a single paragraph hidden away in Uber’s ‘User Terms,’ near the end of those ‘Terms:’

“The quality of the transportation services requested through the use of the Application or the Service is entirely the responsibility of the Transportation Provider who ultimately provides such transportation services to you.  Uber under no circumstances accepts liability in connection with and/or any acts, actions, behavior, conduct, and/or negligence on the part of the Transportation Provider.  Any complaints about the transportation services provided by the Transportation Provider should therefore be submitted to the Transportation Provider.”  [paragraph quoted in full from ‘Exhibit K’ of the City of Edmonton’s February 05 application for an injunction that will force Uber Canada Inc. to cease operations in Edmonton.]

Ha ha.  So much for Uber’s assurances of contingent liability insurance for drivers and passengers.

‘Card Castle’ by http://scooty63.deviantart.com/

I think Uber will eventually go bankrupt, under the weight of cumulative lawsuits.  And everyone but the founders will be left to pay the price for the actions of the founders.

Uber claims to have $5 billion dollars in liability insurance.  That may seem like a lot, if you haven’t ever seen the big payouts from American class-action suits in a jury trial.

If I was an Uber investor, as the lawsuits keep rolling in, I’d be getting nervous about the ultimate fate of my monies with Uber, but, maybe they enjoy those kinds of risks…

‘Roulette Wheel’ by http://resien.deviantart.com/   [resources and stock images]

And if I did business with them, I’d be looking to keep my ‘accounts receivable’ up to date.

If I worked for them, I’d start looking for another job.

I’m just getting warmed up on this page.  As I write this, Uber Canada Inc. has not yet filed a ‘Statement of Defence’ in the ‘City of Edmonton’ action.  The hearing is scheduled for the morning of March 03, 2015;  Uber has until 48 hours prior to that time to file a defence.

I will keep you posted.

March 04, 2015 update:  I hear tell it was quite the dog-and-pony show at the Edmon-ton courthouse yesterday morning, with a boatload of Uber-lawyers from Toronto, ran-dom Uber cheerleaders touting the “benefits” of the service and other assorted characters of indeterminate purpose…  Their head legal beagle, Neil Finkelstein:   http://www.mccarthy.ca/lawyer_detail.aspx?id=7325  sang the judge an aria from his  constitutional repertoire, namely, that Uber’s right to free speech has somehow been “violated” by the city of Edmonton’s refusal to allow it to continue to operate here, outside the law.   http://www.edmontonjournal.com/Uber+describes+driver+standards+Edmonton+court+filing/10855721/story.html   Uber spokesperson Xavier van Chau has also claimed to have the “support of 12,000 Edmontonians,”  http://metronews.ca/news/edmonton/1302244/hearing-on-edmontons-uber-injunction-delayed-for-several-weeks/   a claim that conveniently overlooks the fact that none of those people would be supporting Uber if they knew their rides were uninsured.  One might think they’d be able to figure that out, by the mere facts that:  (i) no insurance company is going to insure drivers who drive for pay on the sly, and (2) that the city of Edmonton has stated categorically that Uber is breaking the law by operating here, but, people believe what they want to believe, when they’re desperate… desperate for a free ride…. desperate for fast cash and a fast job…

picture of P.T. Barnum by:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Eisenmann  creative attribution, share-alike, non-commercial license.

But all of that is just for show, the boatload of lawyers, the petition, to make it look like Uber has a strong case when the reality is that its case could hardly be weaker, and to dis-tract the judge, Justice E.J. Simpson, from the issue that has the most profound implica-tions for the public at large with respect to Uber, and that is the issue of insurance.

Uber spokesman Leon Mwotia claimed to me that the name of their “insurance provider” was “proprietary information.”  Yet Uber has readily released that information in those American states where it actually has managed to obtain insurance.  (Even there, the issue of how much coverage is actually provided has been a matter of serious controversy in the news media.)  But the point is that, one cannot really reasonably make that information readily available in one area and then block access to the exact same kind of information in another area on the grounds that it is proprietary.   Unless, of course, the claim to have insurance coverage of any kind in Canada is false.  Which I think it is.

…………….

But, insurance is not the only accountability issue facing Uber.  There’s the matter of that data breach of “50,000 drivers’ personal information,” which Uber alleges it only discov-ered in September 2014, four months after the breach: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/edmonton/Uber+says+personal+information+drivers+compromised/10852354/story.html  and which it evidently only saw fit to report five days ago, on February 27, 2015 – a full five months after even Uber says it knew of the breach.  And how did Uber’s “Managing Counsel of Privacy,” Katharine Tassi, see fit to give notice to the drivers that their data had been breached?  In a blogpost, apparently:  http://blog.uber.com/2-27-15  Now, I don’t know if any Canadian drivers have been affected by the breach, because Uber has not seen fit to “specify” that data.  But I’d bet that a little ol’ blog-post notice won’t cut it under California’s breach-notifications legislation, either:  http://www.infolawgroup.com/2010/03/articles/breach-notice/security-breach-notices-for-canadian-data/

I’m not done on this page.  When I’ve recovered from the flu, I’ll head on down to the courthouse and see if Uber’s had anything substantial to say for the Edmonton hearing, now scheduled for March 26.

…………………

March 18, 2014:  Just a few days left until the City of Edmonton v. Uber Canada Inc.  hearing on March 26, and I’m still struggling to recover completely from a vicious virus, karma, I believe, from chronic sleep-deprivation.  I don’t think I’m up to a long trip downtown to the courthouse.  Moreover, there’s a high probability that it would have been fruitless;  it’s become clear from media reports of Uber Canada’s legal battle against the city of Toronto’s attempts to ouster it that Uber has no intentions of releasing any information with respect to its claims of insurance in Canada::   http://www.thestar.com/business/2015/03/10/city-argues-ubers-insurance-policy-should-be-public.html

What’s interesting in that Star article is what Uber lawyer John Keefe doesn’t say about the ‘insurance policy.’  He doesn’t say it’s ‘comprehensive,’ or that it’s ‘solid,’ or talk about the insurer.  No, he says it’s “novel.”  And, to fill up the empty air, evidently, he adds, for lack of a better description, apparently, that Uber Canada’s ‘insurance policy’ is ‘commercial innovation,’ and that it’s ‘proprietary.’

Translation:  it’s a bizarre piece of meaningless crap.

About a week ago, I noticed that Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick had been listed by Forbes as one of the mega-rich.  So I looked him up on linked-in and found an email address:  https://www.linkedin.com/pub/travis-kalanick/0/6/3

Of course I asked him to confirm that Uber Canada has the insurance it claims to have for every driver and every ride.  I have never received a reply.  So, then, I checked into Kalanick’s own business history.

His first company, Scour, founded in 1998, received “millions of dollars” from investors:  http://articles.latimes.com/1999/jun/10/business/fi-46036

got sued for “stealing” copyrighted works: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/07/21/business/movie-and-record-companies-sue-a-film-trading-site.html

and responded by filing for bankruptcy protection, allegedly with “more than 100 million dollars in debt” and only at most “$10 million dollars” in assets:

http://articles.latimes.com/2000/oct/13/business/fi-35861

“Scour filed for bankruptcy protection largely because of the cost of defending the lawsuits and the potential cost of losing them, according to people associated with the company. In a news release, Dan Rodrigues, Scour’s president, said the company took the step to “preserve Scour’s future.””  According to web reports, for example this one:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scour_Inc.#Scour_metasearch_engine  the ‘Scour future’ was more than a little bit creepy.

Look well, at that summary review of Kalanick’s first company, because, in it we can see a blue-print for Uber’s future, in my opinion.  The ability to persuade heavy investors to drop a large chunk of cash into the company, the flagrant disregard for the rights of others:  http://www.businessinsider.com/how-everything-could-go-wrong-for-uber-2015-2#more-public-relations-blunders-could-cause-public-opinion-of-uber-to-shift-1

and the inability, in the end, to make good on promises: http://www.thestar.com/news/city_hall/2015/02/04/insurance-bureau-raises-concerns-about-extent-of-uber-coverage.html

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-uber-regulation-20141211-story.html#page=1

are the characteristics, I believe, that will also determine Uber’s fate.

The lawsuits are starting again for Travis Kalanick and Uber:  http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/03/13/uk-lawsuit-uber-breach-idUKKBN0M92H720150313

like the first snowflakes that herald the oncoming storm:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/12/dc-uber-lawsuit_n_2861451.html

http://www.law360.com/articles/616681/sex-assault-case-is-latest-lawsuit-againt-uber

and it’s clear that Uber drivers don’t necessarily feel they’re covered by insurance:  http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20150215/NEWS08/302159993/uber-lyft-could-be-forced-to-provide-drivers-with-workers-comp?tags=%7C69%7C92%7C304

or that they are non-Uber employees:   http://www.businessinsider.com/uber-lyft-business-models-threatened-by-lawsuits-2015-1

I predict that insurance mega-torts will turn the blizzard of lawsuits into a ‘perfect storm:’  http://www.cbdlaw.com/Personal-Injury/Ride-Share/Uber.shtml   http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140820/news/140829809/

Unfortunately, it won’t happen in time to save large cities like Edmonton and Toronto from the Uber Canada fall-out: increased rather than decreased congestion, the flight of drivers into other lines of work from already under-staffed legally operating taxi services, and multiple harsh wake-up calls for passengers who, in trying to save a buck and a minute or two, gambled with their lives that they would make it to their destinations problem-free and  if not, that Uber Canada Inc. would make good on its promise of “comprehensive liability insurance” to cover “every ride.”

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The emperor's new clothes I by roweig

http://roweig.deviantart.com/art/The-emperor-s-new-clothes-I-170234472

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March 19, 2015 breaking news:  The state court in Frankfurt, Germany has just banned Uber from offering its ‘ride-sharing service’ in Germany.

http://globalnews.ca/news/1891343/german-court-bans-uber-adding-to-troubles-in-europe/

And that is a really  mis-named ‘service:’  “ride-sharing.”  Friends and acquaintances share rides.  That is not what Uber drivers do.  Just more of the Uber deviousness:  make the service sound innocuous and like something it is not.

…………..

 

3 Responses to The House of Cards that is (arguably) Uber Canada Inc.

  1. John Palzone says:

    You should focus your efforts on something else. If you don’t like Uber don’t use it. Why is this such a personal crusade for you? I’m am well aware of the risks involved in Uber and I’m 100% ok with them, why are you trying to dictate what service I can use?

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