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Seattle Taxi Drivers Sue Uber Ridesharing Service; Cite a Threat to Business

Image: Seattle Taxi Drivers Sue Uber Ridesharing Service; Cite a Threat to Business

By Nick Sanchez   |   Wednesday, 26 Mar 2014 12:44 PM

The years-long, multi-city war between taxis and limo drivers and ridesharing services like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar spread to Seattle this week as the incumbent taxi drivers association filed a lawsuit against one of the startups.

Geekwire reports that the Western Washington Taxi Cab Operators Association is suing app-based transportation company Uber for "unlawful and deceptive business practice which harms the economic interests of taxicab drivers."

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a recent city council vote to limit the number of vehicles any "transportation network company" can have on the road simultaneously to 150. The measure also stipulated that TNC's must have commercial insurance and pay $50,000 for a license to operate.

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The new regulation received mixed reaction from both the taxi association and the startups, with the association saying they're still subject to byzantine regulations dictating things like "Bermuda shorts," "trimmed beards," and printed receipts while the startups are not. The startups complained that they're limited to 150 vehicles on the road while there are over 600 taxis in Seattle, with 200 more on the way.

The lawsuit specifically points out the fact that, by law, taxis must have security cameras, GPS devices, a silent alarm, fare meter, and other accessories, while the startups' vehicles do not.

"If the Operators Association’s members were to provide taxicab service without satisfying the City of Seattle and King County requirements, they would be subject to up to 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine," the lawsuit says.

Furthermore, the association says Uber "harms the public interest by depriving the public of the rights and protections provided to passengers within those regulations, which include licensed, trained drivers and safe and properly insured vehicles, as well as the fees Uber would otherwise pay for the privilege of dispatching drivers on the public’s roads."

The association is seeking compensation for all the fares and tips lost to Uber over the last year.

This is certainly not the first time Uber has been sued by incumbents as it's extended its service to over 80 cities worldwide. In some instances — Chicago, for example — taxi companies have even sued the city directly.

In many of the battles, including the one in Seattle, comments have emerged on both sides blaming the city for being too restrictive and stifling innovation altogether.

One taxi driver from the association points out that they tried to introduce smartphone apps that allowed customers to press a button to hail a cab, however such activity remains illegal under the law. The difference is that Uber has been willing to flaunt that law to win customers.

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