News / Toronto

Uber describes processes, rebuts 'safety' allegation from Toronto city official

Uber is biting back after a city official said its car-share service poses “a threat to the safety and security” of riders.

The app-based company tracks drivers — and riders — meaning it could prove safer than traditional cabs. That means situations like the one Toronto’s Alejandro Santiago found himself in recently might more easily be avoided.

Santiago, a photographer, lost thousands of dollars in equipment when a taxi drove off with his luggage. He worked with the city to track down the cab driver — and company — but wasn’t able to, eventually launching an Indiegogo campaign to replace what went missing.

Santiago’s case prompted municipal standards officer Dmitri Kritsotakis to say similar situations are likely to crop up with Uber since some drivers aren’t licenced like other cabbies.

Uber spokeswoman Lauren Altmin outlined the company’s processes for Metro. The way she describes it, the company could be an answer to losing mitts, wallets and phones to the black hold of a cab.

If someone loses something while using Uber, they can use the app to message an Uber employee after the car drives off, Altmin said. The company monitors feedback around the clock.

“(The employee) will go through the process, including contacting the driver to let them know something was left in the vehicle,” Altmin said. “Often times drivers will email and let us know they have a lost item.”

Riders can touch base with the driver directly, too — the Uber app lets the two call each other, without revealing actual cellphone numbers.

Last week, Toronto became the latest city to launch legal action against Uber, which is based in San Francisco and doing business around the world.

Cities like Toronto say the service is a risk to the public because it operates outside city rules.

Akrem Taxi does exist

When Alejandro Santiago realized his camera equipment was lost — perhaps even stolen — he called his bank, and tracked down the credit card transaction for his cab fare.

That led him to a company named Akrem Taxi, which neither he nor a city official could track down. The company appeared not to exist.

Akrem, it turns out, is a man: Akrem Mohammed, who contacted Metro after a story about Santiago’s situation was published last week.

Akrem’s four-month-old company, Akrem Taxi, has more than 40 credit and debit machines it rents to cab drivers, which is why his company showed up on Santiago’s credit card statement.

As for who was driving the car that picked Santiago up at the Toronto Coach Terminal in mid-October, that’s still a mystery.

“If we can get any further detail on the transaction we can pinpoint this driver that allegedly did this,” Mohammed said.

That said, he noted, the taxis drivers he deals with are “legit.”

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