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Boise cites two Uber drivers as critic calls for reform

Boise cites two Uber drivers as critic calls for reform

Dustin Hurst
January 7, 2015
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January 7, 2015

Boise officials cited two Uber drivers last weekend for failing to operate with a commercial drivers’ license.

Mike Journee, Boise’s city spokesman, told IdahoReporter.com city code enforcement officers hailed two Uber cars last weekend and cited them upon arrival.

The citations aren’t like normal tickets, though. The citations aren’t formal just yet, and the city attorney must decide if they will become so.  If the city moves forward, drivers face up to a $1,000 fine and loss of drivers licenses.

Boise and Uber continue to tangle over how the city will regulate the ride-sharing service. The city, which slapped the company with a cease-and-desist order on Dec. 31, wants to regulate Uber drivers much like taxis. Uber maintains it’s not a taxi company, but rather a technology company that connects willing drivers and riders as part of the sharing economy.

Journee told KTVB the city will continue citing offending drivers. IdahoReporter.com filed a public records request to secure a copy of each citation.

Uber spokesman Michael Amodeo said the company stands ready to fight. Uber vigorously defends the rights of our driver-partners, and we will stand behind them against any unjust citations,” he told IdahoReporter.com.

The city has plenty of critics for its regulatory push for the company, including Chris Koopman, an attorney and research fellow at the venerable Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Koopman told IdahoReporter.com Wednesday the city risks blocking future innovation by pressing antiquated taxi regulations on Uber and other ride-sharing services.

“The danger is that you stifle innovation,” Koopman warned. “You limit the ability of the market to adapt and respond to the needs to consumers.”

One sticking point in the company’s negotiations with the city is how riders complain about poor service. Uber’s phone app, which customers use to hail rides and pay for service, allows riders to rate drivers and provide immediate feedback. Boise, though, wants feedback to run through city hall, as it does with taxis.

Koopman contends that’s the old, outdated way of doing business. “It (Uber) gives consumers the ability to respond in real-time,” Koopman said. “They have real-time quality control.”

Uber also actively monitors social media -- Twitter and Facebook, for example -- for negative feedback and responds in those mediums.

Koopman said working through the city for complaints is less responsive to consumers. “It takes a lot of time,” he said. “It’s slow.”

Instead of seeking to regulate up for Uber to match taxis, Koopman suggested Boise examine de-regulating taxis to make them more consumer-friendly.

“Uber is able to provide a better, more efficient service because their business model allows them to work outside taxis’ regulatory structure,” he said. “Uber’s doing it in a different way that renders these (taxi rules) obsolete."

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