from the bravo dept
If violence is the last refuge of the incompetent, as Issac Asimov’s delightful line in Foundation tells us, then perhaps desperate lawsuits are the last refuge of the disrupted industry. There is simply no better example of this than the many groups affiliated with many city’s taxi services and their many lawsuits against Uber. We’ve seen this dance play out in the past, with the disrupted industry flailing away in court, attempting to get the government and/or the law to protect its own business interests rather than competing with a disruptive newcomer. It almost never ends well for the old guard.
But it isn’t just taxi companies themselves who have attempted to get into this mix against Uber. Take a case brought in Queens, for instance, in which Melrose Credit Union joined others in an effort to force Mayor de Blasio and New York’s Taxi Commission to ground Uber on its behalf. Melrose Credit Union has most of its loan portfolio tied into medallion purchases, lending money to taxi companies in order that they could pay the once-expensive medallions. The problem, obviously, has been that taxis aren’t making as much money as they used to because Uber is displacing them. As a result, taxi companies and drivers can’t make enough to pay back the loans, the loans are defaulting, and Melrose Credit Union is freaking the hell out. They told as much to Queens Supreme Court Justice Alan Weiss. Weiss, as it turns out, was less than impressed.
“Any expectation that the medallion would function as a shield against the rapid technological advances of the modern world would not have been reasonable,” he wrote. “In this day and age, even with public utilities, investors must always be wary of new forms of competition arising from technological developments.”
In other words: compete or die. And those really are the options, no matter what other legal actions might be taken or verdicts rendered. The fact is that the progress of technology will indeed march on and will create more efficient ways of performing within any given industry. Attempting to stem that flow with trumped up legal actions and proclamations of the industry’s destruction would only work in the short-term, if at all. In this case, the court ruled that de Blasio and the Taxi Commission aren’t required to keep Uber drivers from picking up customers. And why should they be? If the public wants the service, Melrose Credit Union would deny them that service on the argument that it will lose money? Judge Weiss wasn’t having that.
Judge Weiss made clear that that’s not his concern. “It is not the court’s function to adjust the competing political and economic interests disturbed by the introduction of Uber-type apps,” he wrote.
Indeed it isn’t, nor is it the court’s function to countermand the Taxi Commission’s stance that Uber rides are pre-planned rides, instead of hailed fares off the street, and therefore don’t require a medallion. If medallions become less valuable, that’s a problem for the medallion money-men to endure, not the public.