September 11, 2014

Atlanta Cabbies Are the Latest to Sue Uber


Atlanta cab drivers are the latest to take the startup ride-sharing service Uber to court. According to Creative Loafing:

The lawsuit, which was first reported by the Daily Report's Greg Land, alleges that Uber — and UberX, the company’s service that connects everyday drivers using their personal vehicles with passengers — “operate illegally by charging fares based on measured time and distance exactly like a licensed and fully insured Taxicab.” In addition to costing drivers fares, the lawsuit claims that Uber has diminished the value of the medallions and rental fees taxi drivers pay CPNC owners. We’ve pasted the complaint after the jump for your reading pleasure.

Uber and its competitor Lyft have gobbled up sizable chunks of the taxi business in Atlanta since arriving several years ago, causing heartburn among the companies that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on medallions to operate legally, in addition to following regulations. That's on top of some companies maintaining vehicles. 

EDIT: I should note here that Athens does not have a medallion system; anyone can get a permit to drive a cab or start a cab company. There are no barriers to entry. But...

The main issue in Athens and everywhere is the same: Taxi companies are regulated. They have to operate 24/7, accept every fare, put drivers through government background checks and employ a dispatcher who keeps a log of every call. These regulations were put into place for a reason. Should Uber have to comply with them? 

I'd argue "yes," not only out of fairness, but because if Uber doesn't, we'll be facing the same issues that led us to regulate taxis in the first place. For example, in California, Uber is facing a lawsuit accusing its drivers of refusing to serve blind clients with service dogs. Uber argues that its drivers aren't really employees, and it can't control their actions (even though it can control what kinds of cars they drive). In Athens, this would be an open-and-shut criminal case, because taxis are prohibited by law from refusing a fare.