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This article was published 17/8/2018 (371 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The City of Winnipeg has fielded 58 formal complaints about vehicle-for-hire operations since taking over industry oversight from the province in March.
According to freedom of information request results, the city mostly received complaints about taxi operations, and the two largest companies – Duffy’s Taxi and Unicity Taxi – were the main culprits.
From March 1, 2018 to July 13, 2018, the Winnipeg Parking Authority received 20 complaints about Duffy’s, mostly to do with driver road habits (five complaints), driver conduct (three), service refusal (three) or poor service (three), among other issues.
During the same period, Unicity had 19 complaints, five of them related to poor service and three about driver conduct, plus other misdeeds.
Complaints about vehicle-for-hire services are registered through 311, though if matters are criminal, operators direct complainants to also contact police.
Duffy's Taxi - 20
Unicity Taxi - 19
Other - 7
Spring Taxi - 3
Blueline Taxi/Handi-Helper Transit Service - 2
Unsure - 1
London Limos - 1
Winnipeg Chinese Media - 1
Yellow Taxi - 1
TappCarr - 1
Multiple - 1
There were two reported complaints about sexual harassment or assault that fell under the criminal category. Spring Taxi was one of the providers listed, while the other was not provided in the city’s data set (it was simply listed as "other.")
Harry Fangh, manager of Spring Taxi, said he wasn't aware of the sexual harassment/assault complaint on the city’s list, which was dated May 18, until the Free Press asked him about it.
"I haven’t heard anything about that," Fangh said. "Sometimes they get complaints and they investigate themselves and they figure out it’s nothing."
Grant Heather, Winnipeg’s acting manager of vehicles-for-hire, confirmed the city doesn’t always contact the companies about the complaints it receives.
The city won’t suspend drivers who received sexual harassment or assault complaints until after an investigation is complete, he said.
"We have to be sure because (if not) you’re taking someone’s livelihood away on the basis of only a charge that hasn’t been proven. It’s got to be A.) legitimate, and B.) something that would… either affect your driving or affect the security of people. That’s paramount in all of this," Heather said.
The amount of complaints received so far this year is comparable with what was previously tracked by the province’s taxicab board, Heather said, noting 200 to 250 complaints per year was about average from what he heard.
During nearly four-and-a-half months of tracking, the most common complaint the city received was categorized as "other." That could mean the call had to do with various complaints, or was simply a question or peeve from a customer that didn’t have merit, Heather said.
The next most common complaint was poor service with nine incidents, followed by driver conduct and driver road habits, with seven reports apiece.
TappCarr, a ride-sharing company that hit Winnipeg roads in March, received one complaint about its dispatch company sending two drivers to pick up one passenger. The rider wasn’t sure which car to take and later filed a complaint with 311.
Cam MacKay, general manager of TappCarr, said the company has received and reviewed every complaint it has received to date and has taken 10 to 15 drivers off the road due to poor customer service. The company currently has between 400 and 500 drivers in Winnipeg, he said.
"I think these complaints are kind of based on the business model in which different companies operate, right?" MacKay said. "There’s less impetus on a (third party) to address customer complaints than there is on a ride-sharing company that has a relationship with each customer."
Scott McFadyen, spokesperson for the Winnipeg Community Taxi Coalition, which represents Unicity and Duffy’s, said the companies handle complaints on a case-by-case basis.
"Each company tracks complaints received and, in some cases, drivers will be re-trained to correct a problem. Although rare, drivers have been suspended or let go because of complaints," he said.
Three drivers were suspended and one person was fired so far this year from Unicity and Duffy's, according to the coalition. Reasons varied from customer service issues to other policy rules and regulation violations.
"Since the new bylaws have come into effect, the Winnipeg taxi business has provided hundreds of thousands of rides to Winnipeggers, in all conditions, with an impeccable and safe record," McFadyen said.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.