Uber has revolutionized the transportation industry around the world. Now, instead of “calling a cab,” people can hop onto their smartphones and text an Uber. Advertising itself as a cheap, convenient alternative to taxi services, the Uber wave has gained significant traction in the transportation market.

But, is this company really what it says it is? Is it the on-demand carpooler that everyone seems to think? The simple answer is no.

It is true that Uber brings the simplicity and ease that we all desire to the taxi industry.  Its impressive black cars that make you feel important, low prices that keep your wallet feeling nice and heavy, and clean, beckoning app interface draw hundreds of thousands of people to the service daily.  But beneath all that glam and glitz, Uber is a disastrous corporation: in order to deliver its selling points to customers, the carpool-service company operates illegally and ignores safety, putting the public at risk.

Uber has structured itself to scam as many people and governments as possible.  It charges rates lower than certified taxi drivers can afford because it ignores taxi licensing and laws. This means that Uber operates illegally in most of the world.  It also costs governments hundreds of thousands in lost revenue, as it takes huge bites out of taxi drivers’ paychecks-paychecks that many legal drivers rely on to support their families. By manipulating international tax laws through subsidiaries, most of this money is funneled to the Netherlands and eventually to a holding company in Bermuda in order to avoid paying income tax. In short, Uber is cheating us out of money.

Uber also forsakes customer protection to rake in more revenue. All someone needs to become a certified Uber driver is a driver’s license, a car with registered plates, personal vehicle insurance, and a basic third party background check. There is no police vulnerable screening check. Moreover, since there is no requirement to have a commercial insurance policy, Uber drivers have no liability insurance if they get into an accident with a customer.

Thankfully, people are finally starting to realize that Uber’s underground economy must be brought to light. Cities are moving to straighten the company out or prevent it from conducting business. Delhi banned Uber and other mobile ride-sharing companies outright in June, but was later forced to remove the ban from the Delhi High Court. Now, it is looking to regulate the company’s operations instead.  

A little closer to home, Toronto has also taken action against Uber.  The municipal government recently closed a loophole in the Taxi Act that allowed Uber to operate outside taxi rules on a wording technicality. This officially makes Uber a taxi broker in the city’s eyes as of 2016, rendering some of the company’s current services illegal until it complies with taxi guidelines. Hamilton and Calgary have made similar moves.  All three cities have also asked Uber to discontinue services until it complies with the law, and hundreds of individuals, as well as governments, have filed lawsuits against Uber.  Nevertheless, spokesmen for the company have repeatedly stated that they will continue to operate, even if it is not in a legal setting.

A private members’ bill introduced into the Ontario Legislative Assembly by Tim Hudak, the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, aims to resolve this issue by regulating all ride-sharing and home-sharing services like Uber and Airbnb across the province. If passed, the legislation would make Ontario the first province in Canada to regulate these new industries. More importantly, it would send a clear message to Uber that it has to start complying with guidelines and hold the safety of its customers in higher regard. However, the company’s notorious track record indicates that Uber may continue to ignore these laws and persist in running its services underground.

All in all, Uber – the new way to get around the city – is not the revolutionary company that the world needs. At a time where countries are moving to protect their citizens, jobs, and industries, this company acts in only its own best interests. It’s time for the public to understand that the disadvantages of Uber far outweigh the advantages, and to think twice before calling on strangers in black cars to pick them up.

Illustration: Joy Wang

Illustration: Joy Wang