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Uber Nation: Fighting the Taxi Cartel

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The recent arrival of Uber Nation in Canada has stirred up significant controversy and debate. Uber has launched its UberX service in several cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Edmonton in recent months despite protests from local governments, regulators and the taxi industry. Uber operated its black-car service in Vancouver for about 6 months in 2012 but the company withdrew from B.C. after the provincial transportation regulator imposed a minimum fare of $75 per trip.

Uber is an app based transportation network and taxi company headquartered in San Francisco, California which employs a smartphone application to receive ride requests and then sends these trip requests to their drivers. Customers use the app to request rides and track their reserved vehicle’s location. All the drivers and vehicles are privately owned. As of December, 2014, the service was available in 53 countries and more than 200 cities worldwide.

What’s all the fuss about? Why are legal battles being waged against Uber in France, Germany, China, India, and South Korea? It’s essentially a modern day example of a monopolistic cartel using every legal and political means possible to shut down a new innovative player in the market. Lawsuits have been filed by Vancouver’s 4 main taxi companies against Uber and the battle is now raging.

The taxi cartel is alleging that Uber is ignoring taxi regulations to save money and gain an unfair competitive advantage. The cartel is arguing that Uber is preparing to launch in Vancouver with unlicensed drivers in an attempt to undercut traditional cabs. Uber has not applied for taxi licenses for any of its drivers. While Uber does not currently operate in Vancouver, job postings for managers and drivers have appeared regularly on Facebook.

The cartel has responded by seeking an injunction to prevent Uber from commencing operations in Vancouver. A central theme of their position is that allowing unlicensed drivers to operate is a violation of the “health and safety” of the public because government mandated standards involving driver training, insurance and vehicle maintenance are being bypassed.

Uber has responded by declaring that it does not currently operate in Vancouver and that the lawsuit is simply the taxi cartel protecting its monopoly and profits at the expense of consumers and drivers. Uber’s legal position is that it is a technology company, not a taxi service therefore it shouldn’t be forced to comply with regulations which are outdated and hurt consumers. Uber asserts that its insurance and background checks for drivers meet or exceed those of the taxi industry. In Toronto, potential Uber drivers are screened over their lifetime for impaired driving offences, traffic violations and sexual criminal offenses whereas local taxis companies are only required to screen retroactively for a period of 5 years. Additionally, Uber insures every ride with $5M of liability insurance whereas the industry standards in the taxi cartel are typically $2M. Who has the more comprehensive screening process?

The politicians have also entered the battle. Vancouver’s city council responded to rumours about UberX with a vote to place a 6 month moratorium on all new taxi licenses. In addition, B.C.’s transportation minister announced that the Province would stage undercover stings targeting Uber vehicles. He threatened significant fines and legal action if drivers are caught without proper taxi licenses. Operating an unlicensed taxi can fetch a fine of up to $5,000 per violation. Is this really a proper use of taxpayer’s funds? Is the government in cahoots with the taxi cartel? These are all questions that are being posed by many Vancouverites.

Uber has launched a campaign to win the “hearts and minds” of the public with a petition that has accumulated well over 10,000 signatures. Uber views Vancouver as a terribly underserviced market with the lowest number of taxis per capita in North America. They definitely have a point. Try finding a taxi in downtown Vancouver on a busy Friday or Saturday night. Good luck!

Neither side in this battle is backing down. Until the court proceedings conclude, Uber and the taxi cartel remain in a “Mexican standoff.” The shootout at the O.K. Corral is fast approaching. It may make the feud between the Hatfields’ and the McCoys’ look like a childhood sandbox spat. Stay tuned!

Consult an experienced legal professional to support you with all of your business and legal needs.

With this in mind, C2K Law Corporation provides timely legal advice in relation to all types of corporate/commercial and business law matters. We strive to deliver an affordable, value-added service to suit your individual needs. We recognize that you are concerned about the costs of legal services. We do our best to provide a low cost value added service by leveraging technology and reducing overhead expenses passing the savings on to you. We use our entrepreneurship in our creative problem-solving approach, which enables us to take immediate and decisive action. Call 604.719.5122 or email us at bal@c2klaw.com for a complimentary consultation.

*The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Custom legal advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

© Bal Bhullar, President, C2K Law Corporation.

Bal Bhullar is a corporate/commercial lawyer who owns and operates C2K Law Corporation. Bal has over 20 years of international and domestic practice experience. He has worked in private practice in Vancouver and Bermuda as well as in-house with public and private companies in the mining, aviation, telecom and technology, construction, oil and propane, insurance, management consulting and health care industries. Bal's areas of expertise include corporate finance, banking law, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, corporate restructurings, governance and compliance, company law, contracts and all types of commercial transactions. Bal is the member of the Law Society of B.C. and is admitted as a Barrister and Attorney in Bermuda. Bal is a business savvy lawyer who is solutions oriented and focused on delivering high value advice and service to all of his clients.

Business

How Surrey Residents Can Help Small Businesses During COVID-19.

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Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many people and businesses in B.C. have been impacted. With over 600 cases announced in B.C., many are beginning to distance themselves from others, and businesses are closing down.

The Government of British Columbia just announced the closure of bars and restaurants, and keeping gatherings of people to no more than 50. This is obviously going to affect big restaurant chains as well as small family or single person owned restaurants in Surrey.

However, there are ways to help out the restaurants that choose to stay open. Since the B.C. government has allowed some restaurants to stay open if they can limit their number of customers or move to takeouts.

Surrey residents can help out their local restaurants by ordering take outs or calling for their food to get delivered. This way residents can continue to practice social distancing while supporting the small restaurants that can’t afford to lose too many business days. Fiona Brinkman, SFU professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry writes about the safety of ordering in food, in an email.

“If the food is handled by someone uninfected, they are very safe. This is not a virus transmitted via food.”

For the small businesses that aren’t restaurants. Perhaps a gift shop, clothing store, nail or hair salon. You can always call them up and ask for ways to support their business.

One popular way that’s been trending all over Instagram is purchasing a gift card and using it at a later time, or ordering merchandise online. This way small businesses get some profit, you receive your items while distancing yourself from a large crowd, and you get to spend your gift card at your convenience.

We need to make sure we’re supporting our local businesses during this uncertain time. If there’s a local grocery store in your community that offers online orders or delivery, try to get some stuff from them. During this time it might feel easier to shop from large chain retailers, but we should try not to forget the small local businesses that have helped with the economic growth of the Surrey community.

While we’re using these tips to help out restaurants and small businesses, we should also remember the vulnerable residents living in our community. It’s important to remember that anyone can get infected with the virus, especially when that person isn’t listening to government and health officials. There are people in our community who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. Like children, seniors, those with a compromised immune system, etc.

We need to keep our community safe by listening to the guidelines set by the Government of Canada. Making sure to avoid unnecessary travels, and if you’ve returned to the community from abroad, listen to the government and isolate yourself for 14 days.

With the question of possibly contracting the virus twice, Brinkman writes,

“A person will develop immunity eventually after infection – usually about two weeks later – so a person can’t get infected with the same virus twice. If a new strain of the virus emerges [it’s] possible to get that virus if [it’s] different enough, but then [it’s] really a different virus infecting the person.”

“The biggest worry though is people, either sick, or not displaying symptoms, unknowingly transmitting virus to others in the meantime. Again, [it’s] critical we reduce the spread of this virus. If we don’t, people of a wide age range (not just the elderly) will die needlessly. Hospitals will become overwhelmed and unable to properly help people with other ailments,” she adds.

Let’s also make sure we’re not buying out everything in the store and leaving others with nothing to help them during this time. There are people who can’t stock up on their essentials at one shopping trip, we need to think of them. We also need to shop smarter. Buy what you need and consider others during this time. It’s a time for us to work together.

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Business

Perminder Chohan Named Executive Producer on upcoming It’s Happening Right Here documentary

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Surrey, BC, March, 2020 – Perminder Chohan, has recently joined Emmy® Award Winning Director, Nick Nanton, in the filming of It’s Happening Right Here. A new documentary that sheds light and awareness on the more than 300,000 American minors being lured into the sex trade every year.

Perminder Chohan joined the Emmy® Award Winning DNA Films crew for a day of principle filming in San Diego in late January.

Perminder Chohan was on set for Nanton’s interview with Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad. Ballard and his organization will be highlighted in the film for their work in fighting trafficking, specifically in cases that involve women and children being brought into the U.S. from other countries.

He then joined the film crew for a behind-the-scenes tour of San Diego’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The Task Force Commander spoke with producers about cases involving minors who are trafficked online and through social media. Perminder Chohan got to ask questions as the Task Force Commander gave a look into how police are working to fight trafficking and child exploitation in the U.S.

An investigator with San Diego ICAC gave Perminder Chohan and his fellow producers a demonstration with one of the K-9s the task force uses for electronic detection of devices that store child pornography.

The interviews with Ballard and San Diego ICAC investigators will serve as two elements in this film which aims to give an overall view of the many ways trafficking is happening right here in the U.S.

Coming Fall 2020, It’s Happening Right Here follows the men and women who have joined together to make it their mission to rescue the millions of women, men, and children trapped in sex trafficking and make a difference in the lives of victims of this trade that is happening right here in our own backyards, in America.

About Perminder Chohan

Perminder started with Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network (DFSIN) in 2009 and now is one of the leading figures in the insurance industry. As Managing Director with DFSIN BC, he is responsible for marketing a wide selection of products and to look for new people to train in order to reach more customers, who can benefit from sound financial advice and support. Under Perminder’s leadership, DFSIN BC has become the number one office in the Desjardins Financial Security Independent Network.

Perminder manages eight offices and has personally mentored over 600 advisors. He has trained many educated immigrants to become advisors, just one more way to give back to the community, which supported him. Perminder doesn’t just limit himself to business but is also very involved in the community and charitable organizations. He supports 35 charities locally and internationally. Some of those charitable organizations are Canadian Cancer Society, Heart and Stroke Foundation and BC Children’s hospital.

Perminder’s work has been greatly appreciated by organizations such as SOAR Philanthropy, the Sikh Motorcycle Club, Surrey Food Bank and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He set up the Perminder Chohan Foundation in 2018, which supports causes in education, health and poverty alleviation. Perminder’s contributions have been recognized with many prestigious awards like Spirit of Generosity award by Drishti magazine and the Excellence in Business Leadership Award by Times of Canada magazine. He is also the recipient of the Agency Builder Award by GAMA International Agency and the NRI Person of Year for Global Leader and Philanthropy and Success in Business at Parvasi Diwas, Bharat Samman Awards 2018 held by the NRI Institute at the House of Lords, United Kingdom. Perminder has served as Rotary President and Director for the Surrey Board of Trade. He received an honorable mention by The Surrey Now- Leader for the Leader of the Year Award 2018.

Perminder has often been a guest on various media channels as well. In 2018, Perminder was chosen as a keynote speaker at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to address an exclusive leadership gathering on what he was doing to push the finance industry forward and how to make a difference in the lives of others by giving back. In the same year, he was also invited to speak on the Time Square Today Show in New York and at the FOX Network.

Drishti Media Group facilitated Perminder with the honor of the Business Person of the Year in 2019.

Perminder is an award-winning Best-Selling Author® of two books – Uncommon, co-authored with Brian Tracy and Performance 360, co-authored with Sir Richard Branson. He also co- authored a children’s book, Leo Learns about Life. His fourth book, My 10 Secrets to Success, is now out and available.

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City of Surrey Among Canada’s Top Employers for Young People

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The City of Surrey has been selected as one of Canada’s Top Employers for Young People, which recognizes the nation’s best workplaces and programs for young people starting their careers.

“This award is a testament to the great work our City does to invest in young people and ensure a bright future for Surrey,” said Mayor Doug McCallum. “Programs like our summer hiring initiative, internships and co-op placements have helped more than 400 young people build and advance their careers each year.”

This is the ninth consecutive year that the City of Surrey has received this distinction and is the only municipality in British Columbia to be recognized with this award in 2020. Some of the programs and initiatives the City is being recognized for include:

  • Providing post-secondary students between the ages of 15 and 30 opportunities to gain work experience in a variety of positions in the City of Surrey’s summer student program
  • Offering a 2-year Emerging Leaders program to provide new and emerging leaders with training, education, work experience and self-development opportunities
  • Helping students gain career-level experience through co-op placements and a technical student program, offering opportunities in a variety of fields, including engineering, water and sewer planning, media design and information systems

With 16 percent of the City of Surrey’s full-time employees under the age of 30, supporting our young workers is an important step to cultivating a desirable and engaging workplace.

More information on a career with the City can be found here.

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Business

CSR for SMEs: Small businesses making a big difference

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CSR for SMEs: Small businesses making a big difference

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is often seen as the preserve of large enterprises. From the outside, the CSR practices of large business often appear to be thinly veiled attempts to bolster brand image and resonate with their key demographics. However, CSR doesn’t have to be a cynical affair – or exclusive to enterprises.

Those who view CSR negatively should consider whether it’s better for companies to give with personal gain in mind, or not give at all. While businesses’ images absolutely benefit from effective CSR, this is rarely immediately reflected in their bottom lines. Jaded consumers are typically unswayed by one-off demonstrations of “altruism”. Over time, however, companies which prove themselves to be ethical, environmentally friendly or socially supportive, enjoy greater longevity and brand loyalty. Businesses which do not take causes seriously, or which hope to gain from “flash in the pan” shows of charity, rarely see meaningful gains from their CSR campaigns.

The benefits of ongoing, committed CSR practices are increasingly apparent to smaller businesses, too. The beauty of charitable or socially-minded programmes is that they are incredibly scalable and versatile. Businesses of all sizes can offset the more negative effects of their daily operations in a manner which is meaningful to them – and manageable for them. Just as long term CSR projects can earn large enterprises a positive reputation (while achieving positive outcomes for charities and communities), smaller businesses can also benefit from this “win-win” situation.

CSR Case Study: Fruitful Office

To illustrate the positive impacts of CSR in a SME (Small-to-Medium sized Enterprise), we’ve stepped into the world of Fruitful Office; an office fruit delivery company, currently running a successful programme Planting Fruit Trees in Africa.

For every fruit basket sold, the company has planted one fruit tree in Malawi. This location and this project were chosen for their productivity and potential benefits. Fruit trees grow quickly in this region, maturing in 3-5 years and producing reliably abundant harvests of fruit such as guava and papaya.

Working in association with RIPPLE Africa (a UK charity focussed on projects which engage local communities in Malawi), Fruitful Office provided seedlings, instructions and training for householders, schools, community groups and farmers. In some cases, equipment was provided, empowering Malawians to grow productive trees which would help generate sustenance and potential income.

Extending the project

In 2016, Fruitful Office took its CSR project further, working to combat deforestation in Muzuzu by planting fast-growing guava, papaya and senna siamea trees (the latter is an excellent source of firewood). The project was shaped by local government forestry staff – and through consultation with the local community. By working with communities directly, the fruit delivery business has been able to develop initiatives which generate real benefits, matching the needs of local people and dovetailing neatly with the company’s offering.

With customers in Europe and the UK becoming ever more environmentally responsible (especially in the wake of global movements such as the Extinction Rebellion), companies which use natural produce stand to win custom if they can negate their use of natural resources – and evidence this. Planting fruit trees to both support Malawian communities and reduce the effects of deforestation neatly demonstrates this SME’s understanding of shrewd CSR which simultaneously benefits society and supports business growth.

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Business

Essential Agreements for Your Business

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Athiviraham-Anand

By Anand Athiviraham, Senior Associate
Watson Goepel LLP

What agreements do I need for my business?

A significant part of my practice involves advising clients on which agreements best suit their business needs and goals. Whether it’s two partners looking to start a new venture, a growing business looking to fundraise, or a more established entity negotiating an acquisition, they all need agreements that will protect them from risk and allow their businesses to flourish.

A bootstrapping business may not be in a financial position to put all necessary agreements in place before they launch their business, but it is still important that they understand that investing at least some money now can protect them from potentially incurring thousands in litigation costs later.

Following is an overview of some common agreements, why they are important, and how having the right agreements in place at the right time will benefit your business regardless of the stage of growth you’re at.

Shareholders’ Agreement

Any business involving two or more owners should get legal advice on drafting a shareholders’ agreement as early in the process as possible, ideally at the time of incorporation. Starting a new venture often involves a ‘honeymoon’ period during which the owners are getting along very well and are fully engaged and bringing new ideas to the table. It is not uncommon during this stage for owners to take their good relationship for granted, not anticipating the challenges that may follow.

Business partners, especially friends and family, can sometimes get into disagreements over seemingly trivial issues which, if left to fester, can cause anxiety and further confrontations as the business grows and becomes profitable. Therefore, the key consideration for any business involving multiple owners is to ensure that the expectations, responsibilities, rights and restrictions of each owner are clearly defined in a properly drafted shareholders’ agreement.

Critical discussion points may include:

  • what happens when one partner wants out of the business
  • whether each shareholder will need to provide a proportional amount of investment funds when the company needs cash
  • what happens to the shares on death or disability of one of the owners
  • non-competition/non-solicitation clauses to protect employees and customers
  • key-man insurance, which protects an owner’s family in the event of disability or death

The agreement can be designed to be as simple or as complex as necessary to minimize disputes, ensure clarity, and avoid misunderstandings between the parties, even if all parties are not in full agreement on all points at the outset. The agreement can always be tweaked in future, as the business evolves.

The absence of a shareholders’ agreement covering the most essential aspects of the relationship between the parties can allow a business to ultimately suffer from deadlock due to unresolved disagreements, and lead to costly litigation.

Non-Disclosure Agreement

Also known as an NDA or a confidentiality agreement, this type of agreement is important to have in place before you communicate with any suppliers or investors who may be privy to the core secrets and data that underlie your business. Without an NDA in place, third parties are under no inherent obligation to protect or maintain confidentiality around the information received, leaving little recourse for your business in the case of a privacy breach.

This agreement should be drafted prior to engaging in any substantive discussions with such third parties. Another option to a standalone NDA may include inserting tailored confidentiality clauses into other existing agreements. Your lawyer can help you decide which approach is best for your business.

Terms of Service/Privacy Policy

Terms of service and privacy policies have grown in importance as many businesses have incorporated an online presence where they may sell their products or services, and/or collect personal information about visitors to their website. These agreements are often paired together as the terms of service identifies any key sales terms and general use of the business’ website, while the privacy policy informs the visitor on how their information, whether through the use of forms or cookies placed on the end-user’s browser, is collected, maintained, and handled.

Strong terms of service and privacy policy agreements are especially important for a business engaging in online commerce, as privacy and use of data is subject to a variety of jurisdictional laws, such as ensuring international compliance with GDPR.

Employment / Independent Contractor Agreement

Any business hiring an employee or engaging the services of an independent contractor (also known as a freelancer) should require that the party being hired sign an appropriate employment agreement document. This protects the business not only from potentially incurring thousands in unforeseen severance obligations should the employee be terminated in future, but also protects any intellectual property developed through the course of the employee’s duties to the business.

Businesses will also want to ensure that independent contractors are responsible for self-reporting any tax liabilities to the Canada Revenue Agency, are adequately protecting confidential information from falling into the wrong hands, and that any out-of-pocket expenses are pre-approved by the business.

These agreements should be drafted and adopted prior to the hiring of the third-party, as it is very difficult to implement once the relationship has commenced.

Subscription Agreement

If a business in the growth phase is looking to fundraise, either from third-party investors, friends, or family, a subscription agreement is essential to ensure appropriate compliance with securities laws.

Many private businesses are unaware of the strict securities laws governing how non-founders can invest in the business. The broad eligibility categories for any person looking to invest in your company include:

  • accredited investors
  • friends/family/business associates
  • minimum investment threshold by an individual

If a business decides to raise money from third parties without carefully obtaining legal advice, they risk severe penalties and potentially even jail time. Before considering or accepting any external funds, ensure your lawyer is qualified to advise you of the necessary requirements under securities law that govern your business.

Tips for Good Agreements

A poorly drafted agreement can cause more headaches than it’s worth, not to mention potential litigation should interpretation of the agreement come into question. Non-lawyers should avoid drafting their own agreements, even if it may seem convenient or expedient to do so, as a variety of laws and case precedents may be applicable to the agreement and can undermine its enforceability and legality.

Having an agreement drafted by a lawyer does not automatically ensure that it is a “good” agreement. A lawyer who is not fluent in business law may provide a document that is substandard. A good agreement should demonstrate a deep and nuanced understanding of the relevant laws, be formatted clearly, and use concise language when possible without the need for extraneous legalese. It should contain a section that defines terms, which should then be used consistently throughout the agreement. For example, we often encounter capitalized terms used in agreements that lack any proper definition and for which the context remains ambiguous.

Where applicable, commercial agreements should include:

  • details on the length of the term of the agreement
  • renewal provisions
  • clear pricing and payment provisions
  • termination clauses (and identify the effect of any termination)
  • data ownership/intellectual property aspects relating to the business
  • appropriate indemnities to help prevent the need to go to court for enforcement

Alternative dispute resolution and jurisdiction are also important considerations that should be discussed, since they also have the potential to avoid costly litigation.

Conclusion

Businesses may be hesitant to incur legal fees, especially at the outset, for obvious reasons. While certain agreements can be appropriately postponed until they are truly necessary for the business, some of the essential agreements covered here are important to discuss and implement sooner rather than later to ensure your business avoids potentially costly litigation and is well-protected for the future.

Anand Athiviraham is a Senior Associate in the Business Group at Watson Goepel LLP and focuses on advising entrepreneurs at all stages of their business. He works from both the firm’s downtown Vancouver office and its Surrey location.

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