Wednesday, 19 November 2008

PickUpPal picks up the bill

Bad news for carsharing site PickUpPal: they lost their Ontario hearing and now have to pay an C$11,ooo fine. The charge, which I reported on for the Guardian (Would you stick your cyber thumb out for a lift? Oct 4), followed a complaint by a local bus company that such car-sharing schemes were illegal in the Canadian province.

An antiquated law means PickUpPal users are expected to follow a bizarre series of rules, such only arranging a liftshare if you are travelling between home and work, riding with the same driver each day, and paying the driver on a weekly, not daily, basis. If you want to step outside of these rules - and, say, ask your friend for a fiver for petrol or arrange a cross-country roadtrip – the authorities demand you obtain a license first.

The ruling proved to be a shock for co-founder Eric Dewhirst, who had been confident in the run-up. Yet he's remaining optimistic.
"Because we made a case out of it and received a lot of media attention we were able to put enough pressure on the government to change the laws. Two weeks ago they introduced an amendment to the current legislation that would essentially allow us to operate. The laws still has to pass but we are hopeful," he says.

"We are disappointed at losing at the hearing, however we're thrilled that we got the attention of the government and they are moving forward on changing the laws."

With over 100,000 members, it will take more than this to keep PickUpPal down. While technicalities are being sorted out, Ontario members are being asked to abide by the local law.