Uber Car Impounded, Driver Ticketed In City Sting

Posted on January 18, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. — An Uber car was impounded and its driver was ticketed last Friday as part of a sting operation, said the commission chairman, Ron Linton.

The action comes two days after Linton said in a commission meeting that he considered the service to be operating illegally.

Linton played a role in the sting, hailing a Uber car from a smartphone then directing it to the Mayflower Hotel, where city hack inspectors were waiting. The driver, who was not identified, was ticketed for two violations, Linton said.

  • The first alleged violation was “incorrect hauling” — because the driver and his car are licensed in Virginia, he is allowed to pick up a District passenger only if he is going to take the rider to Virginia; Linton’s trip was completely within the District.
  • The second was “improper charging” — under city law, limousine trips must have a fare set in advance; Uber’s system uses time-and-distance metering, and Linton said the driver refused to cite him a fare before the trip began.

“What they’re trying to do is be both a taxi and a limousine,” Linton said. “Under the way the law is written, it just can’t be done.”

The driver, Linton said, will have an opportunity to appeal his tickets, which carry hefty fines.

Notably, the bust does not implicate Uber itself, but instead the limousine companies it contracts with and their drivers. Ongoing busts could threaten those contracts.

To address the issues, it appears Uber may have to do a better job coordinating cars and drivers with riders and their destinations — i.e., sending a D.C.-licensed car for D.C. -only trips. Second, the company might need to seek a change in city law or at least a new interpretation of city law allowing for their limos to use a meter system.

Linton said that he’s seeking legal counsel on the the Uber service from the District’s attorney general.
Source: The Washington Post

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