Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cabbie can't charge for returning phone: ruling

Driver's appeal tossed

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A Winnipeg woman forced to fork over a $50 ransom to get her cellphone back after accidentally leaving it in a city taxi has seen her complaint against a driver upheld.

Rehman Sadiq's bid to see a recent reprimand, fine and repayment order made by the Taxicab Board overturned has been tossed by the Manitoba Court of Appeal.

The Unicity Taxi driver's conduct was denounced by the TCB this year after the victim made her unusual complaint against him -- one she alleged amounted to extortion.

She and her husband took a cab ride home with Sadiq early last Dec. 21.

She realized the next day her iPhone was missing.

She then turned to its "Find my iPhone" tracking feature to locate it and send a text message to anyone who found it signalling it was lost.

"That is when the driver called my husband to say he had the phone, but we had to pay him $50 if we wanted it back. He said it was for (the) fare of driving the phone," the woman told Unicity's management in an email filed in court.

It's against provincial regulations for cab drivers to charge fees to return property that doesn't belong to them.

The woman said she arranged for her husband to leave work, get the money to pay Sadiq and come home for the exchange.

She questioned Sadiq about the legitimacy of the transaction and whether the phone should have been left with Unicity's lost and found.

He replied it was his "duty" to return it directly, she reported.

Sadiq said he was coming a good distance to justify the $50 "fare" he was requesting, she said, but the iPhone tracker showed he was actually much closer.

"I am not impressed with being extorted two days before Christmas," she told Unicity's manager.

She filed a complaint with the TCB after attempts to fix the problem with Unicity failed. The company was implying she was being dishonest, she said.

"Reputation is worth a lot more than $50," she wrote. "I will pay more than $50 to vindicate myself."

Sadiq was brought in for a formal interview with the TCB in February.

"Did you tell the customer that they have to pay to get their phone back?" TCB chief inspector Gary Stillson asked him in a written statement.

"I told them that they would have to pay the amount on the meter to bring it back," Sadiq replied.

"Did you demand $50 from them to get their phone back?" Stillson asked.

"No, never," stated Sadiq, who conceded he took $25 from the woman and her husband, but said he didn't take $50.

At a TCB hearing on April 23, the woman said she was really given no choice but to pay up.

The board ruled Sadiq's conduct was a "serious departure" from what's expected of cab drivers.

It formally reprimanded Sadiq, fined him $250 and ordered him to repay the $50 to the victim.

Sadiq recently sought leave to appeal the punishment but the Court of Appeal has now shot him down.

"I chose to pursue this to hopefully prevent it from happening again and to get some justice," the woman, who requested anonymity, told the Free Press on Friday.

"Truth be told, I would have offered a reward comparable to $50 for my phone," she said. "I did not appreciate being forced to pay for my property."

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 21, 2014 A9

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