The Federal Trade Commission is siding with Uber in its struggle to operate legally in Washington, DC. In December, the DC City Council decided to rewrite its taxi laws so that companies like Uber — which use mobile apps to hail cabs, black cars and other transportation — could bring their businesses to the district. And in January, the City Council passed an amendment to essentially legalize Uber's e-hail app. But in May, the DC Taxicab Commission proposed new restrictions on car-booking apps that are now preventing Uber and its rivals from operating there.
Last week, the FTC sent the Taxicab Commission a letter arguing that the new rules are too restrictive and could stifle innovation. The agency also said that it's concerned the rules "may unnecessarily impede competition" and that "address disclosure and data security issues" may arise as well. The FTC's support for Uber and similar apps in DC is notable, but this isn't the first the federal agency has weighed in on behalf of taxi apps. In March, the FTC backed Uber and other taxi apps in a similar dispute taking place in Denver.
The government weighs in
Currently, the Commission is proposing to outlaw electronic payments for taxis, and require e-hail apps to hand over data about every ride arranged through their software, Uber said in a May blog post. The company has launched an online petition against the restrictions. "It's time for the DCTC to listen to the overwhelming opinion of the DC Council, District residents, and the FTC, and to stop trying to hamstring innovative transportation options like Uber," Rachel Holt, Uber's DC general manager, told The Hill.
Update: Neville Waters, a spokesman with the DC Taxicab Commission, said that the FTC's comments are being taken seriously as the regulations are being scrutinized. "We do believe the intent of the proposed regulations will allow the market to determine the selection of services," Waters said in an email. "Our priority concern is consumer protection: prevention of passengers being overcharged, prevention of credit card fraud, and the prevention of identity theft."