I think Uber and similar services are fantastic (and whether you want to pay a premium of about 50% over a taxi — or even pay for a taxi — it’s a valuable service to many). I first wrote about this in Why Taxis Suck and What You Can Do About It.
Yesterday Federal Trade Commission member Josh Wright (full disclosure: I interacted with then-Professor Wright on unrelated matters before he was appointed to the FTC last year) wrote an op ed in the Washington Post about the Washington DC Taxi Commission’s attempt to stifle competition and harm consumers in order to benefit current taxi owner interests.
In recent months, the staff of the Federal Trade Commission has provided comments on proposed regulations by several local regulatory bodies in U.S. cities concerning new competition from Internet-based dispatch services. FTC staff has been critical of some of the proposed regulations, specifically those that make it more difficult for services such as Uber and Hailo to enter local markets without any countervailing justification that relates to consumer protection or consumer safety.
The D.C. Taxicab Commission has promulgated one such set of regulations, which attracted comment from the FTC staff. The FTC letter focuses on ensuring that consumers are protected from attempts to use the regulatory process to ward off new and innovative forms of competition. … A regulatory framework should … not directly or indirectly restrict the introduction or use of new types of applications or the novel features they may provide absent some significant evidence of public harm.”
…The FTC letter criticizes the commission’s proposed regulation to require “sedan-class” vehicles — the vehicle class of choice for some new entrants — to be of a specific size and color because the regulation would prevent entrants from using smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine any benefit to consumers from depriving them of the choice to use a Web-based dispatch service.
Back in May I received a nastygram from the DC Taxi Commission regarding my criticism of their attempts to shut down Uber. I wonder what will happen to Commissioner Wright?
(HT: Volokh Conspiracy)