Maryland-based cab companies want to take Uber to court


WASHINGTON, DC – APR 4: UberX driver, Michael Belet, checks the Uber customer app to see where other Uber drivers are working so he can determine where the best place for him to get fares might be, April 7, 2014, in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

This post has been updated.

Five area cab and sedan companies on Thursday filed suit against Uber charging that the company is creating an anti-competitive environment that is hampering their ability to do business in Maryland and the region.

The companies include Barwood Taxi and Sun Cab, which are based Montgomery County, Yellow and Checker Cab, which are based in Baltimore and Green Tomato Cars, which operates in Maryland. The complaint was filed late Thursday in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

“Barwood welcomes competition in the taxicab industry,” said Lee Barnes, president of Barwood Taxi said in a press release announcing the action.  “But it is impossible for our drivers to compete on a level playing field when Uber blatantly refuses to comply with the same rules as the rest of us, even when required to do so by the state.”

Taylor Bennett, an Uber spokesperson, said it was premature for the company to comment on litigation its had not yet seen, but added that, “Uber will vigorously defend the rights of riders to enjoy competition and choice, and drivers to build their own small business.”

The arrival of Uber and other app-based car services, has upended the cab industry in the U.S. and around the world. While Uber is known for its premium black car service, it was the more recent  introduction of uberX, in which private individuals give rides using their personal vehicles, that has caused an even bigger stir.

Late last month, D.C. taxicab drivers staged a caravan to Freedom Plaza to share their concerns with Uber, Lyft and other app-based competitors to the D.C. Council. But the ensuing traffic jam won the drivers little sympathy for their cause.

The new services have  also caused problems for officials here and across the country who are struggling with how — and if — they should regulate their companies, which bill themselves as “technology companies.”

In Maryland, Uber is fighting efforts to regulate its operations. In May, it said it would file an appeal to a proposal by a judge with the state’s Public Utilities Commission that it be subject to the same regulations as taxicab companies.

In June, Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles ordered  Uber and Lyft to stop operating in the state because they had not obtained the proper approvals. They also levied more than $30,000 in fines against the two companies. On Thursday, it appeared the dispute may be close to being resolved in the next few weeks.

The companies have received a warmer reception in the District, where the D.C. Council is considering legislation that would allow them to operate permanently in the city as long as they meet certain insurance and safety requirements.

 

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
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