By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt
Flywheel Taxi has filed suit against state regulators, claiming the taxi industry is regulated unequally compared to its new technology cousins like Uber and Lyft.
The suit was filed U.S. District Court of Northern California on Sept. 23, but announced by litigant Flywheel Taxi late Friday.
“The fact is, I cannot compete against a company that plays by another set of rules,” said Hansu Kim, president of Flywheel Taxi.
Taxis and ride-hail apps like Uber play by two sets of standards, the suit argues. Taxis must have robust vehicle inspections, video surveillance to protect passengers, Department of Justice criminal background checks, in-person training, restrict vehicle carbon emissions, restrict vehicle mileage, be fully insured, and more.
But Uber and Lyft, by contrast, do not need to meet those same strict standards, the suit argues. Notably, Kim said, the taxi industry has taken on financial losses in the face of stiff competition from Uber, and Lyft.
Those technology companies are legally known as Transportation Network Companies, and are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission, the regulator targeted by the suit.
The CPUC said it hadn’t yet seen the suit, and therefore could not yet comment. Uber and Lyft did not immediately return requests for comment.
Flywheel Taxi’s suit argues the uneven playing field between the old and new for-hire transit companies is a violation of equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.
It also claims those rules differ because two sets of regulators — cities and the state — regulate taxis and for-hire apps. The CPUC, a state entity, regulates Uber and Lyft. But city agencies across California, like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency regulate taxis.
“I’m all for the market determine the best service, but this is an unfair playing field,” Kim said… (more)