Uber maintains that the service is legal in Montreal as the company uses only used registered taxi drivers.
However cabbies themselves are not entirely convinced.
Benoit Jugland, who heads Montreal’s Taxi Bureau expressed misgivings at a conference in New Orelans this week
“How can Uber say they’re using taxi driver when they don't check it out with us at the Taxi Bureau? We're the ones who are giving the permits so we don't know if it's real that they're using taxi drivers. Who are the drivers? Quebec law requires licenses for anyone who drives or dispatches taxis,” he asked in an interview with CTV Montreal.
Consumers, meanwhile, appear delighted with the Uber experience.
One frequent taxi passenger offered a long list of advantages for the Uber service.
“I know exactly where the car is at all times, I can contact the driver if I want him to wait a couple of minutes or not,” said Max Lesieur of Westmount.
Uber started connecting passengers with drivers-for-hire in San Fransisco five years ago. It has since expanded to 45 countries. Riders sign up with a credit card and they can program tips, so they don't need cash.
A similar service has been offered by a mobile-based start-up named Hailo, which has taken a slightly different approach.
“Our technology platform is very similar but our philosophy is very different,” said Jeff Desruisseaux; General Manager of Hailo Montreal. “Hailo is funded by drivers, for drivers and in every single market in which we operate, we work with the regulators, with the city to implement new technology.”
Mohammed Khazayi, who has been driving taxis for 20 years in Montreal, says that mobile-based companies are cutting into his business.
“Of course, we pay tax here. The gentlemen behind the Hailo or Uber, he takes money from your pocket and put it in his pocket,” said Mohammed Khazayi.
Both Uber and Hailo charge annual fees and take 15 percent commission off fares. Taxi companies don't take commission but drivers pay other fees. But some companies - like Atlas Taxi - forbid their drivers from working for Uber.
Another service on the horizon has been causing even more stir, as another service, known as Uberpop – not currently in Montreal – would allow drivers without taxi licenses to perform the same services, under the term “car-pooling.”
Jugland and the Taxi Bureau are expressing concerns about the possibility of that service arriving here.
“If we don't know who the drivers and if there are no taxi drivers or they're not licensed or they don't have any training, if there we're concerned about safety,” he said.