Philadelphia taxi regulators are sharpening their attacks on ridesharing company Uber by taking to court to fine the ridesharing company $1,000 a day for operating in the city illegally.
In response, Uber says it has no plans to halt its service while city authorities continue to crack down.
Uber is legal nearly everywhere in Pennsylvania but Philadelphia, where authorities are calling the app-based taxi enterprise an “illegal hack cab company.”
Vince Fenerty, who heads the Philadelphia Parking Authority which regulates taxis and limousines in the city, said his agency has impounded more than 50 vehicles belonging to Uber driver in undercover stings.
To be sure, there are more than 6,000 Uber drivers in the Philadelphia area, who collectively have logged more than a million rides since the company launched in the city in October 2014.
“The cars are not inspected; the drivers are not vetted; we don’t know who’s driving the cars; the criminal histories have not been checked by any regulatory agency, so you can actually have felons out there driving cars,” Fenerty said.
Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett says the company conducts its own background checks and that city regulators are trying to protect a “taxi system that doesn’t want to compete with change.”
Uber says it plans to fight the $300,000 fine, which has accumulated since city officials have been trying to shut down the company for the past 10 months.
An administrative hearing will soon be set giving both sides a chance to weigh in on the enforcement action. The matter could be appealed to the Court of Common Pleas, a higher state court.
Fenerty said there are a number of state lawmakers looking to introduce bills to legalize Uber and other ride-hailing app services. Until then, though, the PPA will continue its crusade against the well-financed San Francisco startup.
“We are not adverse to the state law being changed. We welcome it, with Uber being properly regulated by state law,” Fenerty said. “There are many versions of bills floating around. We’re negotiating with the legislators. We’re hopeful that sometime this year a bill will be passed.”
According to UBER, 24 states have written laws legalizing Uber’s services, which the company classifies not as a taxi company but as a “transportation networking company.”
“This isn’t about taxis,” Bennett said. “This is about a new alternative that’s creating jobs and getting people around safely.”
In December, a group of Philadelphia cab companies sued Uber for operating a “criminal enterprise,” that routinely flouts state and city laws.
In particular, for not having to purchase a “medallion,” a type of permit overseen by the PPA that allows taxis to operate legally in Philadelphia.
As the case awaits a trial date, Uber has filed a motion to dismiss claiming that Uber “does not provide transportation services directly.”