Traditional taxi cab companies have opposed the shady, corner cutting practices of ride-sharing operations like Uber since the San Francisco based software company began operating cut-rate transportation services to the northern California city. Now that companies like Uber and Lyft and Sidecar, the three giants in the billion dollar ride sharing business, are openly defying both the law and the establish ride for hire industry, legislators and lawmakers are beginning to see the importance of making these new kids in town pay the piper like their traditional transportation industry counterparts have been doing for many years.
District attorneys from both Los Angeles and San Francisco to the app-based transportation companies with stern warnings about their misleading statements to their customers and the public in general concerning what many see as serious safety issues. The letters to the three largest ride-share companies also contained accusations that the ride-sharing organizations are guilty of refusing to follow state laws and of incorporating illegal practices and the corresponding fines and penalties as a normal cost of doing business. In many cities Uber actually pays the fines imposed on their drivers by local police and courts.
San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón has stated that Uber, Lyft and Sidecar need to correct multiple civil violations of state and local laws. He promised that if the app-based companies continue to disregard the law prosecutors will begin filing restraining orders as well as begin to assess the companies heavy fines.
The prosecutors' letters are the just latest salvo by local governments in the ongoing war over how these Johnny-come-latelies to the transportation business attempt to undermine the existing structure of the industry by circumventing safety and permitting procedures that are designed to protect both the customers and drivers of these scofflaw companies. The companies allow customers to summon rides using smartphones and mobile devices based apps, and drivers transport passengers in their personal vehicles rather than licensed and inspected vehicles like traditional taxi companies are required to use. The services are often deceptively marketed as a safer, and The prosecutors' letters are the just latest salvo by local governments in the ongoing war over how these Johnny-come-latelies to the transportation business attempt to undermine the existing structure of the industry by circumventing safety and permitting procedures that are designed to protect both the customers and drivers of these scofflaw companies. The companies allow customers to summon rides using smartphones and mobile devices based apps, and drivers transport passengers in their personal vehicles rather than licensed and inspected vehicles like traditional taxi companies are required to use. The services are often deceptively marketed as a safer, and cheaper alternative to taxis. These companies have been rapidly gaining popularity in San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as all around the world.
The latest investigations began in response to "a multitude of very serious complaints from both customers and legitimate taxi and limousine companies." Gascón said. The charges leveled by lawmakers include allegations that the firms have failed to comply with multiple laws and local regulations that govern airport pickups and fare pricing. A recurring concern expressed both in California and nationwide is the fact that the ride-share have falsely told consumers that they perform background checks that ensure their passengers that the drivers have no criminal record or previous driving violations.
Uber and Sidecar representatives said their firms' background checks comply with state law although they did not provide specific details regarding either the statutes they refer to or the exact background check process they claim to be employing. Echoing the vague defense the companies have been using in other cities, the reps for these companies claim that the charges are a result of misunderstandings. Their standard line is always something along the lines of this recent quote from Sunil Paul, the chief executive and founder of Sidecar:"We have a common interest," Paul said before a meeting with prosecutors "They have a high priority on safety, and our No. 1 concern is safety for riders, drivers and the public." Most experts agree that there is little truth to this claim and that the ride-share companies have historically shown little or no concern for the safety of either their passengers or their drivers. I think it is painfully obvious that their “No. 1 concern” is the billions of dollars of revenue at stake. Another commonly used, but inherently flawed defense used by the scofflaw companies is that they are merely ‘software providers’ and thus they are not really in the transportation business at all. Their flawed logic wears mighty thin under even the most casual scrutiny. It is no surprise that again, virtually all of the legal experts that have spoken out on the issue consider this line of reasoning unfounded and without any legal merit whatsoever.
What has become increasingly clear is that these companies are getting what they deserve and their time of making billions of dollars at the expense of legitimate transportation providers and local governments is quickly drawing to a close. If California, the most supportive and lenient entity in terms of trying to work with these companies, has finally had enough of the lying and circular legal arguments Uber and their ilk employ, the rest of the country, and the world, can’t be far behind. I guess that is what happens when you bite the hand that feeds you, isn’t it?