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.
— Jay Bobzin (@bobz44) June 6, 2014
So happy to be moving out of the Commonwealth! #VAneedsUber
— Datrianna Meeks (@Digitaleeme) June 6, 2014
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: