BOSTON (Legal Newsline) – With technology giving rise to ride-sharing services like Uber, it means states have had to draft new legislation in order to accommodate such a unique business model.
However, Malden Transportation Inc. and other cab companies in Massachusetts are not happy with what they seek, claiming Uber is being allowed by the state itself to skirt the law and operate outside the boundaries of ordinances that apply to taxis and limos. As a result, 33 cab companies filed a lawsuit against Uber and the state of Massachusetts in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on Dec. 16.
According to a brief filed by the Attorney General Maura Healey's office, Uber is regulated by the state while taxicabs are regulated by the cities and towns in Massachusetts. Healey is seeking dismissal of the case.
While that might sound unfair under the Equal Protections Clause and appear to give the 33 cab companies a case against both the state and Uber, the regulations both cab companies and Uber have to follow, when compared side-by-side, are different.
According to the brief, Uber is not allowed to use taxi stands nor are its drivers allowed to drive around looking for passengers, even though taxis are allowed to do so. Instead, Uber is known as a Transportation Network Company (TNC).
An Uber driver’s first interaction with a passenger is not when the passenger enters that driver’s vehicle, but before that, when a prospective consumer uses the Uber app on his or her smartphone to get a ride. The driver and passenger then meet up face-to-face at a predetermined location. Unlike taxis, the Uber app shows who the driver is, what the license place of the driver’s car is, and what the fare will be before the car even arrives.
Drivers working for Uber, while subject to background checks, are allowed to use their own cars. However, they must also have a decal displayed on their personal vehicles while on duty. In contrast to this, taxis are subject to more regulations depending on the city or town in charge of regulating them; and all taxi drivers must have a taxi medallion. Taxis must also have partitions between the driver and passenger as well as a panic button for the passenger.
A big point of contention in the lawsuit is Massachusetts filing a piece of legislation to govern Uber, known as Chapter 187. According to the brief, this regulation is supposed to only pertain to TNCs such as Uber. However, the cab companies want TNCs to abide by the laws already in place for taxis and other transportation services such as limousines.
While limos are mentioned in the brief as being a vehicle that is locally regulated but also pre-hired like the drivers working for Uber, limo companies were not mentioned or involved in the lawsuit involving the cab companies.
According to the brief, if Chapter 187 were nullified and Uber was forced to abide by the various regulations enforced by taxis, Uber drivers would need taxi medallions in order to continue working. This would cause a shortage of medallions able to be allocated, and a possibility of no taxi medallions left for various periods of time.