Corruption Index Indicator: Cities That Ban Ride Sharing To Protect Taxi Incumbents

from the another-week,-another-disruption-stifled dept

Last week, lots of attention was paid to New Jersey's idiotic and corrupt decision to block Tesla from operating its own stores there, because car dealers don't like the competition and hate the idea of car manufacturers selling direct. As we noted, any such move is a pretty clear sign of corruption at the state level, favoring political allies over the public. There are similar issues at the city level, and this week's corruption highlight award goes to Seattle, where the city council has massively limited ridesharing/app-based transportation services like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. The law doesn't ban them outright, but makes them a lot less useful for consumers (and drivers) by saying each can only have 150 cars on the road at any time -- which is a hell of a lot less than the combined 3,000 they had.

There's simply no reason for this, other than to protect the legacy taxi providers. If consumers want those app-based services, why are they being blocked? And, of course, because so few cars will be available, those services become a lot less desirable (less likely to have a car available nearby, etc.). The end result is that it sucks for everyone. People wanting to get places will have fewer options. People who might want to earn money as a driver cannot. These new innovative companies are held back. The only "winners" are the current taxi owners who have less competition.

One council member, Tom Rasmussen pointed out the absurdity of this, and offered up an amendment (which was voted down) that said there shouldn't be any caps on drivers from such services:
"Let's listen to what the public is saying," he said. "Let's not cut supply when demand is so high."
The public? The public? Ha! They're not lobbying like the taxi and limo companies.

As another council member, Tim Burgess notes:
"Someone told me that trying to limit TNCs would be like prohibiting Netflix because we wanted to protect Blockbuster," Burgess noted.
Indeed. And yet... it's now the law in Seattle. In a city known for having a fairly thriving innovation and tech scene, the city council has just made it clear that innovation that upsets local incumbents just isn't welcome.

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    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 2:10pm

    Enforcement?

    Just exactly how are they going to enforce this? Ask 151 of their friends and contributors to call at the same time, and if they all get picked up, go and arrest the...company that picked up last????

     

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    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 2:27pm

    Political Corruption Index

    Now here is a thought that the government will just hate. A website that has a meter (think blood drive thermometers if you will) that indexes the corruption of legislative bodies and individual politicians on a basis of whether they serve their constituents or contributors. It would go up or down depending on actual votes rather than rhetoric. The determination of corrupt or not would come in whether the legislation in question would be likely or not in conflict with the constitution.

    Refinements?

     

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      Anonymous Howard (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 5:21am

      Re: Political Corruption Index

      Now there's an idea!

      Additionally, provide links as citation to the actual deeds, so they can be verified.

       

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      TMLutas (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 12:04pm

      Re: Political Corruption Index

      A lot of NGOs do legislation scorecards like this all the time. It's a pretty well accepted tactic. The only problem is that the lists themselves get to be partisan. You might consider single issue lists across all jurisdiction and you pick out from a menu what votes you consider corrupt for your own personalized corruption map.

       

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      Rekrul, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 1:29pm

      Re: Political Corruption Index

      Now here is a thought that the government will just hate. A website that has a meter (think blood drive thermometers if you will) that indexes the corruption of legislative bodies and individual politicians on a basis of whether they serve their constituents or contributors.

      Such a web site would last all of about one day, if that, before it was hit with a barrage of defamation lawsuits from every politician listed on it.

       

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        Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 5:33pm

        Re: Re: Political Corruption Index

        Not so sure about that. The votes are a matter of public record. The determination of constitutional or not is a subjective opinion. How seriously it is taken would depend on the quality of affiliation. For instance, if the EFF contributed to those opinions, they would be taken more seriously. Many ways to put that together, and totally protected, except for the funds to fight those whom are ignorant and spiteful.

         

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    Indy, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 2:40pm

    How will this actually play out?

    450 cars in Seattle's core is still enough to sway public opinion on the matter. Uber and the like could put a sticker that says "Like this service? Ask your city representative to ask us to provide you with better service, and up the number of cars we can provide!"

    150 is better than nothing, which is what we have here in Portland.

     

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      Mason Wheeler (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:20pm

      Re: How will this actually play out?

      150 is better than nothing


      Not in Uber's case, not when it's run by a sleazy Objectivist who thinks that illegal price gouging is not only worth doing but worth defending when called on it.

      I'm all for disruptive innovation when it's actually making things better for people, but using flashy, deceptive marketing to push a lower-quality, more expensive service isn't good for anyone except the parasites. The sooner Uber goes out of business, the better.

       

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        That One Guy (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:42pm

        Re: Re: How will this actually play out?

        And if the quality really is lower, and the price is indeed higher, it will go out of business, especially without the government(s) stepping in and protecting it.

        However, whether it fails or succeeds should be up to the service it offers, and whether or not people believe it's worth the cost, not some politician tying them up in red tape to protect the already in place companies/industries their new service threatens.

         

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        Niall (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 2:26am

        Re: Re: How will this actually play out?

        And if the sleazy Objectivist can still run a better (or more popular?) service than the local taxis, that says a lot for *their* service quality/costs.

         

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        Ed (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 6:36am

        Re: Re: How will this actually play out?

        You already lost your argument by your craven ad hominems and outright lies. The public overwhelmingly prefers Uber (and Lyft, etc.) to traditional taxis in every city where they operate. If the service was so expensive and poor, if it was such a bad quality, then Uber/Lyft, etc. would quickly go out of business. But, that's not the case, and that's why people like you (who I suspect is now astroturfing for the incumbent taxi industry) are so afraid and are resorting to spreading FUD and lies. You have nothing else. The sooner the incumbent taxi industry puts their resources into improving their service instead of trying to buy the politicians into creating obstacles for competitors, the better we all will be.

         

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        John Skookum, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:19pm

        Re: Re: How will this actually play out?

        Go to hell, you fascist. If you don't like surge pricing, feel free to set a self righteous example for the rest of us, and don't use Uber.

         

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      Ninja (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 3:29am

      Re: How will this actually play out?

      Actually I have a better idea:

      The public? The public? Ha! They're not lobbying like the taxi and limo companies.

      We need to crowdfund lobby. Popular lobby. (As sad as it sounds since there shouldn't be the need for it and the politicians should be doing things for the people).

       

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        Pragmatic, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 6:29am

        Re: Re: How will this actually play out?

        Uh, that's what Citizens United did. Result: Super-PACs. Bad, bad, bad idea.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:37am

      Re: How will this actually play out?

      "Uber and the like could put a sticker that says "Like this service? Ask your city representative to ask us to provide you with better service, and up the number of cars we can provide!""

      There is a problem with that. You ever call a tow truck and it averages two hours to arrive (I've had it happen to a friend)? Then they switched to another company and it only averages 15 to 30 minutes because the other company has more trucks on the road?

      The service provided depends on the number of cars on the road. Reduce the number of cars on the road artificially and the service will have to either only serve those that it can get to within a reasonable time (kinda like a lottery which means no one will likely use the app at all being it is mostly going to just be a waste of time since they will likely be denied service) or increase the amount of time it takes to reach your customers and so they will complain about having to deal with poor service.

       

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    Scote, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 2:49pm

    Not "ride sharing".

    We need to stop using the BS framing of "Ride Sharing" and "Sharing Economy" to describe for profit business that book customers through the internet. Casual commuting, where commuters pick up passengers for free so that they can drive in the HOV lane, that is sharing. Picking up passengers for a metered fee, that is a taxi service. The implausible fiction that drivers are offering free rides in exchange for donations is nonsense. It might have been true, vaguely, at the start, but it is utterly false now.

    So, as much as I think that taxi and limo services are protectionist industries in most cities, I'd say that Uber, with its "surge" price gouging, is not necessarily a better idea. Some regulation, such as commercial insurance and vehicle inspections, are reasonable, and the paper thin excuse of the "sharing economy" doesn't outweigh the need for those kinds of regulations.

     

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      crade (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:01pm

      Re: Not "ride sharing".

      There really isn't anything wrong with the name..

      It's not ride sharing because it's free, it's talking about shared resources (ie: in this case, the fact that someone is already going your way, so you can catch a ride with them for less than a taxi would cost hypothetically).

      Anyway, whatever you name it, regs that prevent this sort of competition are certainly no less corrupt for doing so because of the name. Fact is: you can pay someone who isn't a taxi driver to drive you somewhere if you want to. You SHOULD be able to pay someone to drive you somewhere if you want to.

       

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        Scote, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:13pm

        Still Not "ride sharing".

        "ie: in this case, the fact that someone is already going your way, so you can catch a ride with them for less than a taxi would cost hypothetically)."


        What you are citing is the fiction, the germ of an idea that the internet could enable, and did to a limited extent. Today's Uber and Lyft drivers are just un-regulated taxi drivers using non-commercial vehicles, not drivers picking up people who happen to be going the same way sharing their ride.

        I'm for actual sharing. Couchsurfing, freecycle, casual commute ridesharing - those are all actual sharing, where as Airbnb, Lyft, Uber all all commercial services that try to duck normal regulation using the language, but not the actuality, of "sharing". And I'm not necesarily against those services, but I am against false framing, by any company, organization or individual. I'm for transparency. And calling these services "sharing" is false framing.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:22am

          Re: Still Not "ride sharing".

          If our legal system wasn't so corrupt people wouldn't have to keep trying to find different ways around broken laws. The laws outright ban competition and they do it for no other reason than the fact that politicians are bought and paid for corrupt people with no moral standards. It's not Uber's fault that our legal system is so broken. It's our fault for tolerating this level of corruption and it's time we fight back.

           

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          crade (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 9:20am

          Re: Still Not "ride sharing".

          Well, regardless of whether or not you think it works, that's what they are trying to do with these sort of setups and that's why they are called "sharing". If it's not working then it's resource sharing that is not working. It's not a fiction, obviously, resource sharing is a reality it just doesn't work in all situations, and where it does work it's never going to be 100% efficient. It's not "framing", it's calling a spade a spade. It is an attempt at resource sharing regardless of your opinion on how well resource sharing works.

           

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      OldMugwump (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:02pm

      Re: Not "ride sharing".

      So what?

      It's people like you who give humanity a bad name.

      Why do you think your opinions should decide what services other people can use?

      It's none of your damn business. If you think Uber charges too much, go use a yellow cab.

       

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        Scote, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:17pm

        Re: Re: Not "ride sharing".

        None of my damn business? Sounds like you are a disgruntled Uber or Lyft driver who is against regulation. There's already a name for un-regulated taxis, they are called "Gypsy Cabs", not "ride sharing".

        I'm all for ending the corruption of city transit monopolies, and of people living off of taxi medallions without ever driving, but that doesn't mean I'm automatically for un-regulated internet enabled Gypsy Cab services as the appropriate remedy.

         

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          OldMugwump (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:27pm

          Re: Re: Re: Not "ride sharing".

          I repeat - why should your opinions decide what services OTHER PEOPLE can use?

          How is that any of your business?

           

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            Scote, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:40pm

            Really still not "ride sharing".

            "I repeat - why should your opinions decide what services OTHER PEOPLE can use?

            How is that any of your business?"


            Really! How dare I be against unregulated commercial business!! Heck, I now realize, based on your brilliant argument, that I shouldn't even demand that the drivers be licensed in any way! Nor that consumers should have any right to dispute over charges, or pay fair and equitable rates!! Gypsy Cabs - I mean "ride sharing economy ambassadors" - should be able to not only give rides but "take their customers for a ride". Only a communist could be for consumer protection and safely laws!!!!!

            /sarcasm

            Again, I'm against the over use of regulation to line the pockets of taxi commission cronies, but I'm also against lining the pockets of a massive fleet of internet enabled Gypsy Cabs based on the fiction that they represent a "sharing economy" rather than what they are, which is un-regulated cab drivers.

             

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              OldMugwump (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 8:07pm

              Re: Really still not "ride sharing".

              I didn't make an argument - I asked a question.

              You didn't directly answer it, but reading between the lines, you seem to be claiming that:

              1) The situation is analogous to driver's licenses. But drivers licences are to protect 3rd parties from getting hit. I don't see how that is analogous - what 3rd party is endangered by Uber?

              2) "Consumer protection and safely" requires that people be prevented from using the ride service they want.

              But who knows better what is best for consumers than consumers themselves? You? Who gave you the right to tell everyone else how to live their lives?

              Why should your opinion be considered better than the opinion of the people who want to use these services? If they get cheated, they will be the ones harmed, not you.

              In any case, the normal laws against fraud and cheating still apply, regardless of any special protectionist "regulation".

              Earlier you said I "sound like a disgruntled Uber or Lyft driver who is against regulation". Well, I am not. I've never driven professionally, and I don't expect I ever will. But I am against "regulation" when it is not required to protect innocent 3rd parties, and when it is a smokescreen for protection against legitimate competition.

              What about you? Do you have a personal axe to grind here?

              I'll ask again - why should you, who calls these services the pejorative term "Gypsy Cabs", and seems generally upset by the whole idea, have the right to tell other people what services they can and can't use?

              It is NOT like a driver's license - there is no risk of harm to 3rd parties. And if there are losers, the losers will be those who choose to use the service, not the public, and not you. (Unless, of course, you are a taxi driver.)

               

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              Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:27am

              Re: Really still not "ride sharing".

              No one is against unregulated commercial business. Taxi cab drivers already need drivers licenses and cars are already regulated by laws that ensure their safety. You are make a strawman argument here. No one is against unregulated commercial businesses.

              What we are against are laws that seek to limit competition. Laws that ban competing taxi cab drivers from entering the market just because politicians are bought and paid for. We're not against regulations we're against bad regulations that limit competition for no good reason. It's not like the politicians are passing these regulations for any safety reasons. Artificially limiting the number of taxi cab drivers has nothing to do with safety. I'm all for safety regulations and those regulations already exist. What I'm against are anti-competition regulations.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:28am

                Re: Re: Really still not "ride sharing".

                (errr ... that first line should read no one is against regulated commercial business *)

                 

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              Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:31am

              Re: Really still not "ride sharing".

              " but I'm also against lining the pockets of a massive fleet of internet enabled Gypsy Cabs based on the fiction that they represent a "sharing economy" rather than what they are, which is un-regulated cab drivers."

              Like I said, it's not Uber's fault that the laws are so corrupt that one has to jump through a million silly loops just to compete. The laws outright ban competition in this field and it's unacceptable. Don't blame Uber, blame our legal system. That's where your anger should be rightfully directed.

               

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                ftgaines (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 12:32pm

                Re: Re: Really still not "ride sharing".

                They are not "gypsy cabs" but rather individually owned cars and SUVs that must be insured, clean and road worthy. If they are dirty or dangerous they get the boot from Uber.

                After each use you have a chance to rate your driver and his car. If either get too many low ratings they are kicked out of the system. Ever ridden in a clean taxi?

                 

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              Gwiz (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:30am

              Re: Really still not "ride sharing".

              Nor that consumers should have any right to dispute over charges, or pay fair and equitable rates.


              How is Uber not doing this? Isn't the price agreed upon beforehand?

              And what do you mean by equitable rates? Equitable with existing cabs services? Why should the consumer give a shit about that if they are satisfied with the price and service they are receiving and agreed to?

               

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                ftgaines (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 12:34pm

                Re: Re: Really still not "ride sharing".

                Exactly. If Uber raises the price to 2X because it is raining why not stand there in the downpour and wait for a cab? The pricing is both fair and elegant. If you don't think something is "fair" or worse "equitable" don't get the app, don't use the service. That will show them!!

                 

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            Jerame, Jul 25th, 2014 @ 4:32am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Not "ride sharing".

            Why should anyone care if someone owns slaves?

            People care to make responsible changes that help the masses, not destroy them through profiteering. Scote has made several valid points. You appear to be an uneducated individual that wants to bash people instead of holding an intellectual conversation with them.
            Price gouging has been protected for many years in America. The unregulated corruption that flows though the nation has already been proven not to be beneficial to the masses. Few people benefit. Many suffer. Please read a few history books. Scote is simply stating an opinion based on historically accurate data.

             

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:15pm

      Re: Not "ride sharing".

      Then you set up something like price limits, multiplier rate of change upward limits, to limit any abuses. You don't ban it from the area unless your contributors don't like competition.

       

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        Scote, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:21pm

        Re: Re: Not "ride sharing".

        "Then you set up something like price limits, multiplier rate of change upward limits, to limit any abuses."

        We have that. They are called taxis.

        Again, I'm for ridding cities of corruption, including the backroom deals and politics of taxi commissions. But I'm also for consumer protection, and surge pricing, lack of commercial insurance, etc. are not pro-consumer, IMO.

        So, I'm against reflexive support of Uber and Lyft using "sharing economy" blather, and of reflexive support of taxi monopolies, too. I don't know if the 150 car limit is the way to go, either. But neither is leaving allowing un-regulated commercial car services.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:32pm

          Re: Re: Re: Not "ride sharing".

          Surge pricing *is* pro-consumer.

           

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            Scote, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:46pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Not "ride sharing".

            "Surge pricing *is* pro-consumer."

            Only in the same way that illegal price gouging during disasters is "pro-consumer".

            Tell us about such pro consumer practices such as Uber drivers cancelling pick ups that were scheduled just before surge pricing was invoked. Ooh, so pro-consumer. If surge pricing were with in the range of typical "premium", say 10 to 30%, maybe you could make a case for it, but it isn't. Uber surge pricing is **multiples** of the base fee, up to 8x. Just insane price gouging. Not pro-consumer.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:59pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not "ride sharing".

              You're confused - there is no gouging.

              No one is forcing you to use Uber - if you don't like their surge prices go ahead and try your luck with the yellow cabs or other forms of transport instead.

               

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                Scote, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 4:06pm

                Uber Price Gouging

                "You're confused - there is no gouging."


                We'll have to disagree on that. I think charging people 8X during a snow storm is gouging, but maybe that's just me?

                Maybe your grocery store should triple the prices when the lines get long? Sounds like a great idea. Especially if Walmart does it, kills off the other stores first, then institutes price gouging, er, I mean "surge pricing".

                Part of the attraction of Uber is the disruption. But if Uber really disrupts the market and everybody goes to surge pricing, that would suck. Are you an Uber driver who makes most of their profit based on the surge pricing? If no, why are you so in favor of paying *multiples* of the base rate? Do you enjoy paying extra for the same service? What consumer wants that?

                 

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                  Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 4:19pm

                  Re: Uber Price Gouging

                  It would be price gouging if and only if there was no competition/equivalent product.

                  More importantly you're not thinking through the scenarios. Let's say it's a snow storm, as you propose, and the prices surge to 8x. What does that mean? That roughly means that to be able to match each customer with a taxi, they need to increase the price by that much, otherwise most people who want a taxi will actually NOT be able to get one. So in the absence of surge pricing what happens is that you play a lottery where you have a small percentage of getting a taxi, while with surge pricing you're paying more and increasing that percentage.

                  Now you may value your time less than the surge price, which is fine, and in that case the thing for you to do would be to try your luck at e.g. yellow cabs. That will both make you happier and will also lower the surge price a little bit. It's a win-win for everyone (and the only reason it *seems* like a lose to you right now, is because you're not considering that you most likely will not be able to get a cab on Uber without surge pricing).

                  If you want to complain about surge prices on Uber, the thing to complain about is that it's not granular enough, but I'm guessing that's probably a function of not having enough data yet and will improve in the future.

                   

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                    Scote, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 4:40pm

                    Uber Price Gouging

                    "It would be price gouging if and only if there was no competition/equivalent product."

                    I'm not alleging that Uber has broken price gouging laws. I do think that charging *multiples* of the base rate is price gouging. What constitutes gouging is literally a matter of opinion, ans we aren't going to agree on it.

                    If Uber disrupts the market, Uber's price gouging scheme could be adopted on a wider bases. I can imagine taxi commissions, protective of medallion owners, angling to have that flexibility. Do I think it will happen? I hope not? But why should taxis have to follow stricter rules than Uber? I think the "surge" pricing limits demand more than it increases supply, though Uber disputes that. But, overall, I see instant price fluctuations in what is essentially a utility as a bad thing. Yes, airline pricing and hotel pricing varies, too. But spread out more. I don't think un-predictable, wide-ranging price volatility for products or services is pro consumer in the long. Eliminating that kind of volatility is why we have taxi regulations in the first place.

                     

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                      Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 5:02pm

                      Re: Uber Price Gouging

                      You do notice right that instead of addressing the specific scenario you yourself brought up, you're throwing around random generalities? And if you're going to hide behind "price gouging is indefinable", then might as well admit that you have no argument.

                      If the price has to go up 100x for demand to decrease and supply to increase enough that they match, then that's the market price. If it's not what you want it to be - sucks for you, but all that means is that the service/good in question is worth that much for someone else who's happy to pay the price. Compare yourself with someone complaining that Ferraris are 8x more expensive than Hondas.

                       

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                        Scote, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 5:19pm

                        Uber Price Gouging

                        Ferrari's are subject to the same regulation and laws as other cars. Uber and other so-called ride sharing services are operating outside of the existing framework of the licensed and existing taxi and limo service regulations - and trying to declare a fait accompli based on their existing success, using the "we already did it so you should let us get away with it forever" excuse. Your analogy doesn't work. Also, "surge pricing" aka price gouging, is selling the *same* product at wildly fluctuating prices, not a *different product* at stable prices. And your analogy fails again.

                         

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                          Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:25am

                          Re: Uber Price Gouging

                          "Uber and other so-called ride sharing services are operating outside of the existing framework of the licensed and existing taxi and limo service regulations"

                          The criticism we have is that the existing framework isn't designed to protect consumers. It's only designed to raise prices and limit competition. No one is against regulations. What we are against are regulations intended to limit competition.

                           

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                          Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:32am

                          Re: Uber Price Gouging

                          What the government wants to do is set a minimum price. They want to raise the price and make transportation more expensive.

                          http://www.techdirt.com/blog/innovation/articles/20120709/22540419635/dc-seeks-to-legalize -uber-forcing-it-to-be-way-more-expensive-than-cabs.shtml

                          Yet somehow, instead of complaining against taxi-cab companies that charge monopoly prices and the government that wants to make transportation more expensive, you claim those that want to bring a competing product at a lower price than what the government wants are price gouging. What a hypocrite you are. If you want lower prices you should rightfully direct your anger at the governments attempt to limit competition instead. But you don't care about lower prices. You just care to defend the incumbent monopolists. If Uber does price gouge the solution is for the government to lift their anti-competitive laws so that competitors can enter the market make prices lower. and if you were really so concerned about price gouging you would be here complaining about the lack of competition that our broken laws result in. But you don't really care about price gouging.

                           

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                          Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:40am

                          Re: Uber Price Gouging

                          I think you're confused about the meaning of the word "regulation". It does not mean "magical smth that makes my personal life better". It simply means a set of rules. And the set of rules that you want (which you don't even seem to understand would make your life worse) is such that Uber would not be able to increase the price 8x. You want to ignore the market of demand and supply, you want to ignore maximization of rides, you simply don't like to pay a lot. You don't care that paying less is an illusion - you have to catch a taxi first before you get to pay less, you just feel all uncomfortable inside when a luxury is sold for more than a non-luxury product.

                          And this is where Ferraris come in. Being able to get a cab in 5 minutes on NYE or in a big snowstorm is a luxury, just like a Ferrari is a luxury. If there were plenty of cabs for everyone at that time, it wouldn't be a luxury, but there aren't. Now you can say - I'm not willing to pay that much for a luxury, I'm going to go with the basic Honda instead, and that's fine - try hailing a yellow cab, go for public transport or walk. This way total transportation (black cars, cabs, public transport, walking) gets distributed by how much people value each option - the fact that the price has surged, but you're not willing to pay for it means that there is someone else out there who values that service more than you and wants it more than you and everyone is happier when they get the goods they value more, vs playing a lottery where goods are distributed randomly (this is your basic standing outside hailing a cab).

                           

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                          ftgaines (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 12:42pm

                          Re: Uber Price Gouging

                          But if Uber wants to charge you 2X because it is pouring rain why not just stand there in the downpour and hope for a cab? Delete the app in protest if it makes you feel better. That will show em.

                           

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                      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 6:52am

                      Re: Uber Price Gouging

                      "What constitutes gouging is literally a matter of opinion"

                      In 34 states, what constitutes price gouging is clearly defined by law. The laws vary a bit from state to state, but generally it consists of charging more than a legally defined maximum price for defined "necessary items" (items which are essential to survival) during a period of emergency.

                       

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                  Gwiz (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 9:11am

                  Re: Uber Price Gouging

                  Maybe your grocery store should triple the prices when the lines get long?


                  That's kind of a silly analogy really. Grocery stores are selling merchandise, not a service.

                  But a grocery store *could* offer a faster VIP checkout lane for extra money, if they wanted to, and there wouldn't be any problem with that, right?

                  Also, grocery stores DO increase prices on products based on high demand.

                   

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              Fred, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:39pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Not "ride sharing".

              "Only in the same way that illegal price gouging during disasters is "pro-consumer"."

              Actually it's only illegal because of the economic illiteracy of the people making it illegal. If they would allow for the natural increase in price guess what would happen? Food, gas, water, workers, etc. would flood the area from people looking to make a quick buck and before you know it the shortages would disappear... In other words, so-called price gouging is very much pro-consumer!

               

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:44pm

      Re: Not "ride sharing".

      We need to stop using the BS framing of "Ride Sharing" and "Sharing Economy" to describe for profit business that book customers through the internet

      Disagree. Just because it's for-profit doesn't mean the label doesn't apply. What do you have against companies doing business by providing a good service that people want?

      I'd say that Uber, with its "surge" price gouging, is not necessarily a better idea.

      It's not price gouging. It's called responding to supply and demand in a very clear and transparent fashion. People don't complain about planes or hotels charging differential pricing, seems silly to complain about Uber.

       

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        Mason Wheeler (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:51pm

        Re: Re: Not "ride sharing".

        People don't complain about planes or hotels charging differential pricing

        ...seriously?

        Airlines have to be running one of the biggest scams known to man. Not only do they pull the "differential pricing" BS, but then there's the practice of overbooking, selling more seats on each flight than the plane actually physically contains. If you've ever been asked at the airport if you'd be willing to give up your seat in exchange for a later flight and a gift certificate/voucher/whatever--or even been told that you might have to, whether you want to or not--you've been a victim of this scam.

        In any other context, selling something you don't actually possess is known as "fraud." But the airlines have legal protection for it. Hooray for crony capitalism!

         

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          Scote, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 5:32pm

          Overbooking

          " If you've ever been asked at the airport if you'd be willing to give up your seat in exchange for a later flight and a gift certificate/voucher/whatever--or even been told that you might have to, whether you want to or not--you've been a victim of this scam."

          Yes, and the person who paid the lowest fair gets the boot. Much like people who book a ride on Uber just before price surging goes in effect may find their ride canceled by a driver who would rater rebook or book a different ride at surge pricing rates.

           

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          nasch (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 3:50pm

          Re: Re: Re: Not "ride sharing".

          You've illustrated why overbooking is problematic, but why is differential pricing a scam?

           

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        Scote, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:54pm

        Framing

        "Disagree. Just because it's for-profit doesn't mean the label doesn't apply. What do you have against companies doing business by providing a good service that people want?"


        Those are straw man arguments. Where have I stated either of those as my premisses? I haven't.

        "It's not price gouging. It's called responding to supply and demand in a very clear and transparent fashion. People don't complain about planes or hotels charging differential pricing, seems silly to complain about Uber."


        Actually, I do complain about hotel and airline pricing systems. It is one of the reasons I like Southwest as an airline. They aren't a flat fee, but better than most on pricing.

        And price gouging and "responding to supply and demand" are not mutually exclusive. They are one in the same, with the difference being only context, something we are clearly not going to agree upon. Nor does stating the price in a "clear and transparent fashion" make something not price gouging.

         

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      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 4:12pm

      Re: Not "ride sharing".

      So when I go on a road trip and require everyone in the car to chip in to defray expenses, I'm suddenly a taxi service?

      (Just trying to find out the contours of what you thing of as a taxi service.)

       

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        Scote, Mar 20th, 2014 @ 4:27pm

        Small business not "sharing".

        "So when I go on a road trip and require everyone in the car to chip in to defray expenses, I'm suddenly a taxi service?"

        Suddenly? No. But if you were to cruse the city on a regular basis to pick up strangers to take them where ever they wanted to go for a fee, I'd call that a taxi service, not "ride sharing." A business, even if a small one. What would you call it?

        What's next, will prostitution become "room sharing"? (Nothing against sex workers.) Will selling Hot Dogs on the street become "Food Sharing"? Maybe remodeling your kitchen will be called "work sharing" instead of contracting? Or how about some landscaping sharing? Just book it through and app and suddenly it is "sharing" instead of just an excuse for unregulated small business.

        Hey, I'm all for using the internet and web services to empower small businesses to connect with customers, but neither the internet nor mobile apps magically transform business into "sharing". It is still business.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:04am

          Re: Small business not "sharing".

          Like I said, your anger is misdirected. It's not Ubers fault our laws are so broken that we have to figure out silly ways around it by playing with words. Your anger should be rightfully directed at our broken laws not at Uber. Uber isn't doing anything wrong here. Illegal, maybe, wrong, no. Our legal system is what's wrong and wasting your energy against Uber is not a very productive use of your time. Your are fighting the wrong battle here.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:01am

      Re: Not "ride sharing".

      Price gouging? If anything what the legacy taxi cab companies and the government are doing is price gouging by trying to set a very high minimum price

      "For Uber to operate there, Johns said, the city would have to change its laws setting a $70 minimum fare and 30-minute prearrangement time on limousine rides."

      http://www.texastribune.org/2013/11/01/uber-making-headway-texas-expansion/#

      and since when is it the governments job to set minimum prices? How is that free market capitalism when the government gets to regulate the price?

       

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    ShivaFang (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 3:29pm

    Calgary outlawed ride-sharing to protect it's taxis last year or so, and a few weeks ago, they have now mandated that all registered taxi owners must have their vehicles in service from 4 pm to 4 am every weekend.

    So they 'force' taxi owners to work because the demand is so high, but they blocked alternate ways to mitigate the demand.. WTF?

     

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      That One Guy (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 10:39pm

      'Warning: May contain strings attached'

      Oh, the looks on their faces when they realized what had just happened must have been priceless... 'Oh we'll pass laws to keep out any competition, and make sure your monopoly over your particular bit of industry is protected, just know that from now on, you're going to be dancing to our tune.'

       

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    Deimal (profile), Mar 20th, 2014 @ 9:20pm

    Sheer fucking arrogance

    From the linked article on GeekWire:

    “The headline should not read that the City Council capped anything,” Harrell said. “It should read that it allowed the ride-shares to come into the industry.

    The blatant ridiculous condescending entitled arrogance of that statement cannot be over-emphasized. This is an elected representative of the city flat-out stating that it is the prerogative of the city council to pick and choose what businesses are allowed to operate. He's not speaking of industry (e.g. fast food, big box store, etc), he's specifically referring to competition within an already legitimate, legally operating industry (paid rides, i.e. cabs). THAT is what should piss people off the most about this.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:40am

    There was a story about a bill trying to directly ban any service that would interfere with the income/business/profits of existing taxi-cab and limousine incumbents. I believe it was here on Techdirt. Does anyone remember?

     

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    Alt0, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 9:22am

    I have a pick-up truck so you guys can argue all you want about this, I won't be using either.

    BUT
    I always believed (and it should be that) laws are enacted to protect the public, not business. (I know, good luck with that in today's world) Any law specifically designed to limit or restrict a company's RIGHT to operate their lawful business is plainly wrong.

    WHAT SHOULD HAPPEN
    Is that if any LAW is put in place it should be a law that requires ANY ride for a fee service (regardless of what they are calling themselves) play on an even field.
    If other "established services" are required by law to have commercial licensed drivers, and commercial insurance (good things IMHO) then ALL companies providing those "same services" should be held to that regulation. You give anyone a ride and charge them you qualify. Simple, a "Rose is a Rose" logic.

    OPINION
    Regulated business is nothing new. It has been a good thing in the past and has protected the public from unsafe practices. What changed so that the "ride share" companies listed above need to try to skirt the existing laws is that these laws have gone beyond simply protecting the public.
    The "price gouging" is actually occurring by both the insurance industry and the license authorities, who restrict the industry's ability to provide a reasonable service at a reasonable price. (Both the established Taxis and the new Share titled services)
    We would all gain by a higher level of competition driving prices down.
    Just as in the MUSIC INDUSTRY, if a new company comes along and uses a new business model to acquire clients, Mobil Apps and internet booking for example, then established companies should also adopt these practices in order to better serve (retain) their market.

     

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    Denny, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 12:24pm

    voterskeep putting the same people in charge

    I am willing to bet none of the politicians will pay a price for their action. At the next election the same people will be voted back into office.

     

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    Dan, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 12:25pm

    Let's not confuse technology disruption and law-breaking corporate bullying. The two are separate and distinct. Unfortunately, in the case of ride-sharing private for profit corporations there is NO technology innovation (they didn't invent GPS, nor did they invent a smartphone). What they did is develop yet another GPS-enabled app. There are thousands of them. Literally thousands of GPS-enabled apps out there. When it comes to public transportation regulation by local authorities was actually the answer (and long-awaited correct answer) to defective inefficient and abusive unregulated systems we had decades ago. Instead of actively and aggressively refusing regulations, ride-sharers would be wise to follow letter of the law, and not break/ twist / or avoid it. Ride-sharing violations are so numerous that without continuous social media PR campaigns (that are so obviously well paid for by those in pre-IPO rush), the whole thing would collapse in a matter of weeks. How many ride-sharers apps are there already? 5? 10? 50? 500? Who will regulate them because drivers have already been caught juggling 2 Uber and Lyft smartphones (while driving!)? Who will make sure that fares are consistent and not random "I feel like it costs $500 today"? Who will regulate vehicle inspections? Complete criminal background checks (and not “touch-the-surface” and yell all over you done criminal check)? Local fees and local taxes paid? Innovation, real innovation, is awesome. I’m all for it. But corporate ride-sharing bullying combined with endless pumping is just another example of social media platforms manipulation. My hope is that readers will see through this veil of manipulation and that regulators will not yield to this unjustified corporate pressure (in fact, aggressive bullying) and regulates these law-breakers. To be honest, regulating them is long overdue.

     

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    ftgaines (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 12:28pm

    Ride Sharing

    I am a frequent user of Uber. It is not "ride sharing" but rather an alternative between a taxi and a limo service Unlike both Uber is pretty much available on demand and without a requirement for cash or an elaborate accout as with a limo service. Unlike cabs, Uber cars are clean and driven by sober people who do not talk on the phones or to you but rather drive you to your destination.

    There is a disturbing tilt on these comments towards regulation, a desire to "help" the rider. Uber trips are rated at the end of each. A dirty car will get the driver kicked out of the program. Ever ride in a clean cab? Of course you haven't because there aren't any.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 6:44pm

    This ain't ride sharing

    I don't live in Seattle and so I don't know about the local situation. But from what I've read, this doesn't sound like ride sharing to me.

    Ride sharing is okay by me. But what this sounds like is an unlicensed taxi business.

    Taxis are regulated by cities for a number of reasons. Fares are regulated to make sure that cab drivers can earn some kind of living and also to make sure that customers don't get ripped off.

    Most cities also regulate the cars that are used to make sure that they are safe and roadworthy. They also have license numbers so that if you have a problem you know who to complain about.

    The taxi industry hasn't always kept up with the times in terms of technology. That's something that they should work on.

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with governments regulating business to make sure that it functions in the public interest.

     

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      James Jones (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:40pm

      Re: This ain't ride sharing

      "Fares are regulated to make sure that cab drivers can earn some kind of living..."

      A cab driver who can't provide a service good enough that they can make a living needs to improve. Provide wifi to customers, or their choice of music, or aromatherapy, or an armed escort to/from the cab in dangerous neighborhoods. Just knowing when a driver has chosen to give you a ride and having information about where the driver is and about when they'll arrive is a vast improvement over the cabs I've taken--but the entrenched government-awarded monopolies have no reason to improve.

      Of course, this will all be moot when autonomous cabs come along--except that the entrenched cab companies will be fighting them instead of Uber et al.

       

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      Gwiz (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:43pm

      Re: This ain't ride sharing

      Fares are regulated to make sure that cab drivers can earn some kind of living...

      That sounds like regulatory capture to me.


      ...and also to make sure that customers don't get ripped off.

      If the fare is agreed upon prior to scheduling the ride, why is this needed?


      Most cities also regulate the cars that are used to make sure that they are safe and roadworthy. They also have license numbers so that if you have a problem you know who to complain about.

      Both if these issues are dealt with by means of instantaneous customer feedback. Too many bad reviews and you're no longer a driver.


      The taxi industry hasn't always kept up with the times in terms of technology. That's something that they should work on.

      That's true. But that still doesn't mean they get to pass laws and regulate against competitors who are up with the times in terms of technology.


      There's absolutely nothing wrong with governments regulating business to make sure that it functions in the public interest.

      Yes, but when such regulation becomes regulatory capture, then that's a problem.

       

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    forrest, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 9:00pm

    Democrats Protect Donors

    Democrats simply protect their donors, free markets are a hindrance to political power.

     

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    Lilly Jones, May 7th, 2014 @ 8:11pm

    Re: Political Corruption Index

    This article makes a lot of great points about regulations, the legal process in our country and the role that unions play.

    Lilly Jones |

     

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    Sam, Nov 25th, 2014 @ 11:20am

    Ride-sharing is a tax evading fraud.

    Uber has BILLIONS. Why can't it comply to same laws
    and regulations to which small transportation businesses
    are forced to comply ?

    If you going to answer "because it's no a transportation company", then my suggestion to you is this: "WAKE UP!"

     

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