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Questions arise about Uber's insurance after Alberta ruling

Last Updated Jul 29, 2015 at 5:32 am EDT

The Uber mobile app is shown on a smartphone in an undated file photo. CITYNEWS

 Alexandra Posadzki, The Canadian Press

Drivers who work for Uber should verify their vehicles are insured for commercial use, the Insurance Bureau of Canada said Tuesday after the Alberta government concluded the ride-hailing service’s insurance policies don’t meet that province’s requirements.

Some insurance policies only provide coverage for personal automobile use, which could lead to a rejected claim if the driver is using their vehicle to generate income, a spokesman for the Insurance Bureau of Canada said.

Steve Kee recommends Uber drivers — and those working for other similar services — call their insurance providers to determine whether they are adequately covered.

“The shared economy is really a new industry, and for insurance companies there are risks, there are exposures,” said Kee. “There may be some gaps, and I think a quick call to your insurance company can answer some questions.”

Questions arose after the Alberta government said Monday it has conducted a study of Uber’s insurance policies and it believes that they do not meet the requirements of the province’s Insurance Act.

“Drivers using Uber ride-sharing services may believe that Uber’s supplemental insurance provides the necessary coverage,” the office of the Superintendent of Insurance said in a statement. “This is currently not the case in Alberta.”

That could leave riders at risk if they are riding in a vehicle that doesn’t have its own coverage, the agency said.

“The passenger is at risk of not having access to automobile insurance protection, including accident benefits or any compensation for injuries they may suffer in the event of a collision,” the government agency said.

The office of the Superintendent of Insurance recommends that passengers using Uber ask the driver to provide proof of insurance coverage.

Uber Canada says every ride on the uberX platform is backed by $5 million of commercial auto insurance, which covers both bodily injuries and property damage stemming from a crash.

Company spokeswoman Susie Heath said it believes its insurance policies are adequate.

“Ride-sharing is an innovative business and we are working with regulators and insurers in Alberta to discuss how auto insurance models account for new services such as Uber,” Heath said in an email.

“The bottom line is this: every ride on Uber is insured. We look forward to continuing our conversation with governments in Alberta to find long-term solutions to enhance public safety and offer more affordable transportation options.”

The Alberta government says it has struck up a working group to develop regulations for ride-for-hire companies in Alberta, in order to keep consumers safe.

“The office of the Superintendent of Insurance will continue to work with Uber on finding ways for the ride sharing service to safely and legally operate in this province under current insurance legislation,” the agency said.