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STL Taxi Commission Files TRO Against Uber

CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) - The Metropolitan Taxicab Commission is asking a judge to ban Uber from operating in the St. Louis area.

The Commission, which regulates the taxi industry for the St. Louis Metropolitan region, filed for an injunction against Uber Inc., Uber Technologies and 19 individual Uber drivers in St. Louis County Court on Monday. A hearing on the injunction is scheduled for Tuesday.

The lawsuit comes in response to Uber launching its UberX service in the St. Louis area last month, against Commission regulations.

"Defendants' actions put the general public in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County at an immediate risk of harm because the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission has no current means to verify the safety of the vehicles for hire or to confirm that the drivers are appropriate candidates for operation of vehicles for hire in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County," the lawsuit states.

On Sept. 18, the Commission voted to allow Uber to begin operating as long as drivers are fingerprinted as part of a criminal background check. The Commission claims the fingerprinting is required by state law.

Later that same day, Uber filed a lawsuit against the Commission claiming the fingerprint requirement is too burdensome. Uber, which claims it conducts its own background checks on drivers, then launched its UberX service without complying with the fingerprint requirement.

According to the Commission's lawsuit, 11 of the 19 Uber drivers listed as defendants don't have a commercial license and one has a larceny conviction and one has an open warrant in the City of Wellston. The Commission claims none of the 19 drivers have applied for a vehicle-for-hire license and are in violation of vehicle-for-hire code.

St. Louis City and St. Louis County differ in their outlook on Uber.

City police have said they refuse to ticket UberX drivers and Mayor Francis Slay is an Uber supporter.

County police will cite UberX drivers, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but no tickets have been issued. St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger supports the fingerprint checks.

Uber drivers are subject to a $200 fine for operating without a permit.

"We're not surprised the MTC is yet again trying to stifle competition and deny people the transportation choices they have in other cities," said Sagar Shah, general manager for Uber in St. Louis, in a statement. "Their anti-competitive conduct is not only wrong - it's illegal."

The Commission is represented by Charles H. Billings of Bruntrager & Billings in St. Louis.

The San Francisco-based Uber is no stranger to legal controversy. The ride sharing company has been involved in more than 170 lawsuits in the United States alone since October 2012, according to Reuters.

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