On Tuesday, October 28, 2014, Bell Trans and Whittlesea Blue Cab Company filed suit against Uber Technologies Inc in Nevada. The suit claims that Uber engages in deceptive trade, conspiracy, and unfair competition. The suit goes on to claim that the defendants illegally operate a transportation service without permits. A Judge in Washoe Country, Nevada issues a temporary restraining order thereby halting Uber drivers and riders in that part of the state.
Uber, a startup tech company which matches drivers and riders through an app, officially launched in the Las Vegas market last Friday, October 24, 2014, and according to news and twitter accounts was a complete success. Within hours of the launch, however, Nevada authorities and the Attorney General were filing paperwork for injunctions and restraining orders to stop the company drivers from driving people without the proper licensing that the taxi and limo companies are required to have.
Arguments go back and forth in the Reno area, yet Clark County is not without similar battle cries. Senior Deputy Attorney General, David Newton filed for a similar restraining order for Clark County on Wednesday, October 29, 2014. Newton argued on behalf of the State of Nevada and by proxy the interests of the taxi and limousine lobby. Judge Douglas Herndon heard the attorney’s arguments and stated that the evidence was not clear that Uber and its drivers pose a credible threat to the safety of the public at large. Therefore, Uber is still allowed to operate in Clark County until the Preliminary Injunction hearing which is set for November 14th.
Taxi companies are not sitting idly by while the Attorney General’s office struggles on that case, at least two additional injunction complaints have been files and it is likely that they will be bundled with the AG’s case for the Nov. 14th court date.
In an interesting bit of legal “splitting hairs”, the attorney for Uber, Donald Campbell, has argued that Uber is not a transportation company but a technology company. The company only provides the electronic platform that matches willing drivers to willing riders. Campbell further stated that because the drivers and riders must download an app to be connected, they are independent of the company and in business for themselves and since the app is only being marketed to the digital community, the general public is not at risk.
Taxi and Limo services are required to go through and lengthy and expensive licensing process. The taxi and limousine drivers are under strict laws as to who they can pick up and what they can charge. They argue that these ‘independents’ want to run free without the same restrictions, which are arguably for public safety.
Whether these arguments hold up in the preliminary hearing in November is to be seen, but the battlefield is becoming hot on social media. A Twitter campaign for @Uber supporters to sign a petition to Gov. Sandoval and the Attorney General to allow Uber to continue and thrive in Nevada. With a few over 15,000 followers and those who post comments are very adamant for the proposition that laws either be changed or current laws not be enforced so Uber can do what it was designed to do.
It was January 2014 in Las Vegas, and the San Francisco based, Uber started a Twitter campaign at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES). This social media battle which began with the slogan, “#VegasNeedsUber”. It was an effort to swell the grass-roots mantra and bring Nevada laws more in line with the transportation for hire laws of other states and even countries. Uber is available in over 60 cities in the US and 26 other countries around the world.
Uber’s technology matches car owners and ride seekers on their smartphone application platform. Those who use the app in other cities are very satisfied with the efficiency, convenience and price that the Uber alternative offers. A doctor from Las Vegas, let’s call him “Bob”, reported that he uses Uber every time he travels to New York City. “The rider experience was better than anything I have seen in a taxi or limo there; on time, friendly and much, much cheaper.” Apparently he is not alone as Uber rider numbers are steadily increasing each day.
Many in the digital age see this as a modern case of horse traders trying to stop the newly invented cars from using the roads. Is this a case of the laws of the land not keeping up with technology, or is it technology outpacing tried and true legal principles for the safety of the public in general.
Not surprisingly our state is divided again on an issue that pits North versus South. Yes, Nevada is the “Battle Born State” but this particular battle is over the popularity of a smartphone app and the implementation of the app’s business plan against state regulators and long-established business interests. So the question remains for Nevada to decide; To Uber or Not To Uber?