Uber's price surges can be avoided by taking a cab, Robert Poeti says

If Montrealers want to avoid paying exorbitant fares for their Uber rides, Quebec's minister of transport has a simple solution.

"Take a legal taxi," Robert Poeti said.

Although Montreal's taxi industry has much to improve, it can't arbitrarily charge up to nine times the normal rates during peak hours, Poeti said at an interview with journalists Monday.

The minister was responding to media reports of Montrealers paying hundreds of dollars on New Year's Eve when Uber jacked up its prices.

The San Francisco-based car-hailing company increases fares at peak periods to encourage more of its drivers to hit the roads.

In Quebec, UberX, the service that allows anyone to make money giving rides, is considered illegal.

"What we saw in the holiday period is exactly why there are regulations in the taxi industry," Poëti said.

Uber responded that it informs users of the price increase on its app and asks them to consent to the higher fare.

Taxis are slowly improving

Transport Quebec has been encouraging taxi companies to modernize their systems and make the experience more convenient.

"They respond very well to these ideas… The technology is there. There is work to do, but they are getting better," he said.

Poeti said there are four pilot projects underway to modernize taxi fleets, including:

- mobile apps for hailing cabs.

- electric vehicles.

- credit card machines in every cab.

When asked how the ministry plans to oppose Uber directly, Poeti avoided the question, but said, "If we want to change things, we have to change laws. For now, I invite all citizens to take legal taxis."

Class-action suit considered

Catherine Papillon, a Montreal woman, is considering a class-action lawsuit against Uber for its New Year's Eve prices and is gauging interest on social media.

Her Facebook post was share 106 times by Monday evening.

Papillon said she was charged $97 for a ride that normally costs $36.

She claims she was not alerted to the price increase and it was her first time using the service.