City Desk

Uber to Virginia: See You in Traffic Court

A day after the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles directed Uber and Lyft to stop operating in the commonwealth, Uber says it will cover the costs for any of its drivers who are cited for disobeying the order.

The Virginia DMV issued cease and desist letters to the car services Thursday, writing that both firms are operating illegally in the state and should halt all services immediately. If they didn't, the DMV warned, the drivers, who are independent contractors, would be "assessed a civil penalty."

The companies' responses to the DMV: Not a chance.

"The Virginia DMV's order does not serve the best interest of riders or drivers—and attempts to limit Virginians transportation choices and decrease economic opportunities for those in the State," Uber representative Natalia Montalvo tells City Desk. (Meanwhile, Lyft tells the Washington Post they believe they're operating legally.) "We will stand by our driver partners if a citation occurs and look forward to working with the DMV and State officials to modernize regulations that protect consumer safety, expand choices and increases economic opportunities for drivers."

The company has also rallied its loyal fans in Virginia to show their support on Twitter with the hashtag #VANeedsUber, which has already garnered hundreds of posts.

But none of this should be all that surprising. In fact, it's become the Uber way: Government tells Uber it is breaking the law. Uber ostensibly ignores the government. Uber rallies customers in support of the company. Government changes the law.

In January 2012, D.C. Taxicab Commission Chair Ron Linton said the company was operating illegally in D.C. The company said it wasn't. Linton even performed a sting and ultimately ordered an Uber car that picked him up impounded and the driver cited for two violations. Uber responded by hosting an open-bar party for its supporters and rallied them behind the hashtag #UberDCLove. Eventually, after many more tussles with D.C. officials, the law changed, and suddenly Uber was operating legally in D.C. after all (UberX is a different story, at least for now.)

In Virginia, it looks like things could follow the same general plot.

"The DMV is studying Virginia's motor carrier laws with an eye toward legislative change next year that could allow such company to legally operate in the state," the Virginian-Pilot reported.

Until that happens, it seems the company and its legions of Virginia fans don't give a damn.

Read the letters from the DMV below:

Sedan picture via Shutterstock

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  • Michael

    When our local small transportation businesses do not
    follow on cease and desist orders - they get closed down,
    forcefully, in a matter of a few days.

    When an offshore-based private corporation - uber - evades local taxes, breaks laws, refuses all and any regulations, ignores court orders and cease and desist
    orders - well.... nothing happens.

    It seems that all these freshly-printed $$$$ that
    offshore-based law-breaking ride-sharing cartel is
    getting lately - all of it - gets spent on lobbying
    efforts, plain politics and corruption.

    To the Uber rep that dares to say:
    "The Virginia DMV's order does not serve the best interest of riders"
    Tell that to that young lady that used Uber and was
    kidnapped and dragged to a motel by an Uber driver just yesterday:

  • When did he

    I'd like to know what the insurers say.......

  • Typical DC BS

    @When did he: It's just a matter of time until someone gets hurt during an Uber ride here and the poor customer discovers the Uber driver's insurance DOES NOT cover them because the driver was not licensed to drive commercially and was not insured for commercial coverage.

  • Abol Buna

    UBER service is a disaster in the making. It is an unregulated operator in a regulated environment. It is like you go to medical school to become a Dentist and pass all required certification as a responsible professional. The uber dentist is the guy who can take your tooth out any time any where? Are they following the procedure? no, of-course not. They never thought of insuring their drivers until questions start being asked or some actual disaster happened and people already hurt. How on earth you would jump in to a vehicle that was never inspected for business purposes.

    Granted, it is easy to access them OK we got that but how about public safety. Where is the training for drivers?A half hour online gig is that it? I think America need to wake up and whoever is making millions of dollars of UBER business they need to know that they are playing with fire. Public transport is not an ATM machine. It is about people and safety.

    Elected officials need to stand their ground in protecting the public that puts them in to their offices and we the public need to be behind them. Let us not help these vultures ruin a system that was developed through years of experience. We can improve the current system and build on it. Dismantling the whole system and replace it with a rag tag quick money scheme is not growth it is distortion and people with money are playing this game just to enrich themselves.

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