Cabbies Call Uber and Lyft Illegal


HARTFORD (CN) - Fifteen Connecticut cab companies sued the ridesharing app-providers Uber and Lyft in Federal Court, seeking an injunction against the unlicensed services they say flout public transportation laws and are equivalent to "a fleet of gypsy cabs."
     "Over 90 years of regulation in Connecticut have produced a set of rules designed to meet the needs and protect the rights of individuals who need a car and driver on short notice - i.e., a taxi." the complaint states. "Technological advances have made taxi dispatching more efficient over the years, but the defendants' approach ignores virtually all taxi regulations designed to protect customers who suffer from disabilities, who live in less secure neighborhoods, or who simply cannot afford a limousine."
     Lead plaintiff Greenwich Taxi claims that the ridesharing companies "carefully crafted [a] plan to insert itself, at no cost and without legal authority, into the taxi and livery infrastructure that has existed in Connecticut since the 1920's. The defendants then profit by simultaneously flouting and taking parasitic advantage of a transportation system in which all other players must comply with safety rules and consumer protections established by state and city laws."
     Cabbies in Houston and San Antonio filed a similar lawsuit against Uber and Lyft in April.
     Uber's app service connects people looking for a ride to people willing to offer a ride for a fee.
     Customers provide Uber with a credit card number, which Uber charges for the transportation services, so that no cash changes hands between the rider and the driver. Both Uber and Lyft began offering services in Connecticut in April.
     "Uber hopes that consumers will see their 'classic' black cars and 'high end' SUVs as downmarket limousines, and their UberX vehicles as affordable alternatives to taxis; Lyft hopes that consumers will view their vehicles as affordable and more convenient alternatives to authorized taxi and livery vehicles," the complaint states.
     But the vehicles, no matter how they are marketed, "whether fancy or affordable, are in fact dangerous taxis," the complaint states.
     "In addition to competing unfairly and unlawfully against Connecticut taxis, the defendants' vehicles compete unfairly against true livery car services, which need not comply with the taxi laws and regulations if they convey passengers on prearranged trips for flat rates. The defendants' vehicles ignore these restrictions, are dispatched as quickly as UberTAXIs (even though these are not currently available in Connecticut), and thus have a substantial (and unfair) competitive advantage over livery car services that comply with the taxi rules by refusing to participate in an on-demand dispatching system like the defendants," the complaint states.
     Also, drivers of the ridesharing services do not pay proper insurance rates for their vehicles, and defendants' assignment system permits a driver to discriminate against passengers based on race, age, gender, and disability, the cabbies say.
     They also claim that the defendants' fare structure is not legal.
     "Each time the defendants assign a cab operating under a plate authorized by the State of Connecticut in response to an electronic hail, the defendants fraudulently lead their customers to believe that they are legally authorized to do so, and that the defendants are legally authorized to charge the fees and 'gratuity' over and above the maximum lawful fare set by Connecticut regulations," the complaint states.
     The 15 cab companies seek damages under the RICO and Lanham Acts, and for unfair competition under Connecticut law.
     They are represented by Mary Alice Moore Leonhardt of Hartford.