Uber, Lyft hit with injunction in Philadelphia (updated)

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Ride-sharing apps’ rumble with regulation keeps on clocking up the mileage. Both Uber and Lyft have been hit with a court injunction banning their activity in Philadelphia, following complaints by the local taxi industry.

Local media reports the injunction against the pair was ordered by a Common Pleas Court judge yesterday, and went into effect immediately — although both companies say they will continue to operate while they appeal the order.

In a statement regarding the injunction Uber also calls for statewide ridesharing legislation to be enacted “as soon as possible”:

While our appeal is pending at the Commonwealth Court, Uber will remain available for riders and drivers. This situation makes it clear that Harrisburg needs to act: Pennsylvania must have permanent, statewide ridesharing legislation as soon as possible.

In its response Lyst also urges a “statewide solution” to put ridesharing on a legal footing in the region, while also complaining of not being given an opportunity to respond to the specific suit in question:

Lyft was not given any notice or opportunity to be heard on this issue before yesterday’s ruling. We are appealing the order and will continue operating in Philadelphia as the legal process moves forward. People in Pennsylvania want access to ridesharing, and we remain committed to finding a statewide solution that keeps this modern option available across the state.

The state issue refers to Pennsylvania’s legislature being due to vote on statewide legislation to authorize ridesharing later this month — on October 17. An earlier (temporary) authorization for ridesharing to operate in Philadelphia expired at the end of September, so the cease-and-desist order is falling within that legislative gap.

While, outside Philadelphia, the two ride-sharing apps are apparently operating under “experimental authorization” from the Public Utility Commission until early next year, according to CBS Philly.

It’s possible the injunction will be just a minor bump in the road for Uber and Lyft in Philadelphia — i.e. ahead of state legislators agreeing to permanently authorize ridesharing — however the local taxi industry’s counter intention is clearly to make enough noise to apply pressure on lawmakers to consider their objections.

The current injunction stems from a lawsuit filed by taxi drivers in July in which they argue that the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA) has failed to provide equal protection to all providers of car services in the city, according to reports.

The suit also alleges the city’s disabled population is being underserved by ridesharing services because the likes of Uber and Lyft do not have to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act — whereas taxi companies do.

A separate lawsuit has also been filed against the PPA by taxi medallion owners in federal court. So further legal pressure is being applied.

Uber and Lyft also risk being found in contempt of court by continuing to operate in defiance of the judge’s order — but are evidently gambling on state legislators resolving the dispute for them in a matter of weeks.

Update: In a further development on Friday a second court judge granted a preliminary injunction of the cease-and-desist order — allowing Uber and Lyft to continue operating in the city without legal risk.

An Uber spokesperson provided the following statement to Engadget on this news: “Uber celebrates riders and drivers staying on the road in Philadelphia, but the Commonwealth still needs permanent ridesharing legislation from the General Assembly. If Harrisburg does not act in the next two weeks, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians could again lose access to affordable transportation and meaningful income opportunities.”

In a statement emailed to TechCrunch a Lyft spokesperson added: “We are encouraged by today’s news and remain focused on working with legislators in Harrisburg to pass permanent rules for ridesharing in Pennsylvania.”

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