New Regulations Could Finally Kill Uber in D.C., Says CEO
To hear Travis Kalanick, the CEO of lightning rod electronic private car dispatch company Uber, tell it, launching Uber in another country is less trouble than doing it in Washington. "It's easier to do business in Paris than it is in D.C." Kalanick says. And it could be getting a little harder. According to Kalanick, new regulations (PDF) proposed by the D.C. Taxicab Commission yesterday could put Uber out of business in the District for good.
The new set of proposed regulations, which will have to go through a 30-day comment period, a hearing, and possible revisions before becoming law, create new rules for the sedan companies with which Uber partners. In an email to members of the D.C. Council today, Kalanick wrote that the "anti-competitive" regulations could eliminate thousands of jobs.
Kalanick singles out regulations that require sedan companies to have at least 20 cars, issue paper receipts, and not carry passengers outside the District. But cab commission head Ron Linton—a frequent target of Uber complaints—says the company has it all wrong.
"They don't what they're talking about," Linton says. "They often don't know what they're talking about."
According to Linton, the regulations would still allow for independent sedan operators with one car, and would only eliminate companies with a handful of cars that he says most frequently try to game the system. Linton says paper receipts will prevent drivers from charging for miles they didn't drive, and the regulations will only prevent sedans from operating in jurisdictions they aren't registered in—i.e., an Uber trip from Maryland to D.C. could be driven by a car from Maryland or D.C., but not from Virginia.
Linton suspects Uber's reaction to the regulations could be inspired by two desires: independence and publicity. "[Kalanick] gets a lot more attention and interest by making a big stink about things," Linton says.
That "big stink" could be back. Kalanick says he has no problem reviving the storm of pro-Uber emails and tweets the Council saw last summer, when Councilmember Mary Cheh proposed a price floor for Uber trips. In a blog post this afternoon, Kalanick asked the company's supporters to tweet about the issue with the hashtag #uberdclove.
"When there's such a clear threat that our business won't be able to exist, then we ultimately have to go down the path of letting our customers know," Kalanick says. Next up in the long-running fight: a Council hearing on Monday about the regulations.
Here's the text of the proposed regulations: