A New York City administrative tribunal recently suspended five Uber-owned car service bases in New York City until they hand over trip data.
The penalty comes from an earlier refusal on the part of Uber to hand over the data as requested by the Taxi & Limousine Commission on October 9th. They were seeking electronic trip data for rides from April through mid-September.
According to the ruling the affected bases will not be allowed to legally operate until they comply and each pay $200 fine.
Uber still has one base not affected by the ruling and can continue to operate legally in the city under the suspension.
More bad news for Uber?
So why did Uber fight the earlier request?
After all, other competitors, such as Lyft, did not object to handing over the requested data. According to Uber they fought the request on constitutional grounds, saying the commission was demanding trade secrets, information that could harm its competitive position and possibly violate drivers’ privacy.
However, those concerns were dismissed since the request only sought information about specific business engagements while drivers were working for Uber.
Though the ruling does not necessarily spell trouble for Uber since it is considered a digital service in many of the cities it operates from, there does seem to be a disturbing trend related to how Uber chooses to comply (or not) to local regulations.
New York City required Uber and other internet-based companies to dispatch rides from bases. Which is why this ruling has partially disrupted service in NYC. But the larger issue is this — why didn’t Uber simply comply with the request in the first place? It seems to me that Uber’s standard argument is that they are NOT a ride service at all, only a tech company that “connects” riders with drivers.
Yet, those drivers are ultimately paid by Uber (though they are considered independent contractors).
The bottom line, as always, seems to be this…
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