Uber, Other E-Hailing Services, Learn that Regulation = Shakedown

How can we regulate your app intelligently if you don't give us expensive devices on which to run them?


Crain's New York Business finds an amusing/infuriating detail in some proposed New York regulation on Uber and other e-hailing smartphone ride-summoning apps:

On page 33 of the 42-page document, the TLC [New York Taxi and Limosine Commission] says, "Upon request of the Commission, an FHV [for-hire vehicle] Dispatch Application Provider must provide at no charge a fully operable device on which the Commission can access the FHV Dispatch Application, and access to the FHV Dispatch Application with requisite Base, Driver, and Passenger test IDs." The penalty for noncompliance is a $500 fine and suspension.

To Uber, this means it will have to buy the TLC iPhones, Android devices or Apple Watches…

Other rules would require Uber and its competitors, such as Lyft and Via, to get TLC approval for its smartphone app updates before offering them to customers. Uber would also be effectively prevented from dispatching cars to LaGuardia Airport because the airport lacks a for-hire vehicle lot. And the TLC would require Uber to direct customer complaints through 311 and the TLC, rather than through Uber itself, which, the company complains, would increase the time it takes to resolve a complaint.

Stands to reason, right? How can we picayunely regulate you if we don't have the best possible device on which to run your app? And remember, we hold the power of life and death over your success in a major metropolis.

The notion that a city bureaucracy could possibly do a better job for customers than the app company's themselves in terms of useful updates and changes and dealing with complaints will seem silly on its face to anyone who has dealt with both taxis and e-hailing services.

The full TLC document embedded at the Crain's link.

For background, see my feature from last November on the slow fight for political acceptance by these e-hailing services. (Market acceptance has barely been a problem.) The city to city fight for this wonderfully helpful innovation will be, as this shows, unnecessarily long and hard and harm so many citizens and potential e-hail drivers along the way. And, enjoying their fancy new devices if they pull this off, municipal regulators won't care at all.

Hat tip: Ken Constantino