The Federal Trade Commission Versus Washington DC Taxi Regulators

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)

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About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary, you mention the cost premium. Have you tried UberX? All the convenience of uber and cheaper than a taxi. No I am not being paid for this shill. It is just that it is awesome. DC taxis are cooked.

  2. I’ve lived in DC for a while. I would rather walk in the snow, use capital bikeshare, or take wmata before I ever use a DC cab again. The taxi cab commission is a complete joke. Kudos to the FTC.

  3. Airport rides are the cream of the taxi business. Unlike taxis, airport limo services generally do not provide general purpose point to point service within the city. If limo services skim the cream of the taxi business, then there will be too few taxis to provide vital point to point service in the city. Unfortunately, too often the taxis are all lined up waiting at the airport and not actually providing the point to point service. No one seems to have solved the problem.

  4. Living in Chevy Chase, I know full well the follies of the DC cabie industry. Just the other day to get from Chinatown to CC, a taxi went all the way down to the national mall, and then drove up to CC. But, I discovered a travel hack. There’s a cop parked across the street from my apartment, not a luxury everyone has, and I asked the taxi to stop right in front of him. I told the cabie what I usually pay, and he was more than happy to pay me the normal price.

    The benefit of DC cabbies is that they are still much much cheaper than MoCo cabbies, that can tack on 10 bucks to any average dc cabbie ride.

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