Uber and Lyft — Are They Really “Illegal” ?
Uber and Lyft are not necessarily illegal. However the use of Uber and Lyft by a driver may violate certain local city or municipal laws and ordinances. Confused? Read on…..
Transportation network companies (the term that has emerged to define these companies), such as Uber and Lyft, which are each valued well over a billion dollars, began to take public notice around 2012.
For those of you unfamiliar with Uber and Lyft, the web generated mobile app allows users to request a transportation vehicle (often a local resident driving a personal car) to their current location. The Uber/Lyft driver responds to the request, immediately aware of the passenger’s location based from the GPS on their phone . The convenient (and often lower cost ride than a cab fare) driver transports the mobile app user, charges their credit card, and Lyft (not Uber though) allows the user to add a tip using the app on their mobile phone or tablet.
It’s not surprising that Uber and Lyft are facing opposition from local cab and limousine companies. Often regulated by county ordinances, cabs and limousine companies are requesting Uber and Lyft be held to the same local ordinance requirements.
Broward County’s SunSentinel reported that “Uber considers itself a technology company, and so taxi laws shouldn’t apply.” Broward isn’t the only county issuing citations to Uber, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties have also cited Uber drivers for failing follow county regulations. [Update – Broward has now added certain rules and Uber has announced it will shut down the service in Broward County on August 1, 2015]
Transportation network companies are not the first technological advancement to cause a ripple and confusion in the law. The rise of technology and particularly the Internet has challenged several facets of the law, for example, courts have been increasingly challenged in implementation of privacy laws since the advent on the Internet.
However, just because the legislature and judges are unsure how to handle technological advancements doesn’t make them per se illegal.
Uber and Lyft have both responded to citations by paying fines for their drivers (they are really doing a good job of protecting their drivers on this – first hand knowledge). Uber and Lyft are also lobbying heavily for State legislation to adopt a modern regulatory framework. If adopted, such legislation is likely to allow Uber and Lyft along with other transportation network companies to continue business (although they will certainly have to make some compromises – such as paying local taxes or fees). T
Uber and Lyft are not illegal from the point of view of the rider. Uber and Lyft may constitute a violation of an ordinance when used by the driver, but in most jurisdictions it is not a violation for which you can be arrested. Uber and Lyft drivers who rely on these platforms for a substantial portion of their earnings should absolutely stay up to date and follow the relevant blogs or social media accounts. A good one to follow is @ridesharedash or www.ridesharedashboard.com
Sibley Law strongly encourages safe driving. Please do not drink and drive. Please do not text and drive. Uber and Lyft are ridiculously cheap, most rides around town are less than 20$ and many are under 10$ for destinations nearby. The minimum is only 4$. Less than the cost of 1 drink. Please be smart and responsible.
[Update- the city of Key West has passed an ordinance that driving for Uber and Lyft is a second degree misdemeanor. Just two days ago, they made the first arrest for a man who picked up undercover police officers at the airport]