Uber has announced that it’s ending operations in Montreal, just days after its license to operate in London was revoked by city authorities. It’s the second blow struck by regulators in so many weeks, and it sends a dangerous signal that Uber’s business model might not be here to stay.
The company will end service in Montreal on October 14th, thanks to a new set of regulations that were to be imposed on its drivers by the provincial government. For the last year, Uber has operated in Quebec under a pilot program, which required some training and vetting of drivers, and the payment of a small tax to the government. The Quebec government offered to renew the pilot program for another year, but with additional training and vetting requirements for drivers. Uber deemed the terms overly restrictive, and announced this morning that it will end service in the province.
Montreal Uber GM Jean-Nicolas Guillemette highlighted a new rule being introduced, which would require 35 hours of training for anyone who wanted to drive for Uber, in addition to a new background check to be conducted by the police. Previously, 21 hours of training and a private background check were required.
Guillemette said that 35 hours of training is “too much,” and that Uber already trains its drivers on an ongoing basis. He highlighted that the majority of Uber’s drivers are part-time, and pointed out that many other part-time side gigs like AirBnb don’t require any training.
Uber’s decision to pull out marks the end of a tumultuous few years for the service in Montreal. The ride-sharing service expanded to Montreal early, but has been plagued by regulatory problems since the beginning. While the provincial government only started legislating against Uber in the past year, there’s been an ongoing battle between Montreal’s taxi office and Uber ever since the company showed up. In classic Uber fashion, the company denied that its service was ever illegal, and it paid for rental cars and impound fees as its drivers were taken off the road.
It seemed as though the government and Uber came to an agreement last year, with a number of restrictions to bring Uber drivers closer to the status of taxis, and the enactment of a program to share Uber revenues with the government in order to help the taxi industry modernize.
There is a glimmer of hope left for Uber and Quebec. Guillemette told reporters this morning that Uber would stay in Montreal if Quebec reconsiders the rules. Mayoral elections are scheduled for early November in the city, and candidates’ opinion on Uber — which is popular among residents — is likely to become a huge topic for discussion.