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article imagePortland's lawsuit against Uber

By Jenna Cyprus     Dec 30, 2014 in Business
Uber has been facing significant controversy in many cities and towns, due to local regulations surrounding the company's lack of permits.
Uber also faces major opposition from taxi cab companies in several cities, since the company threatens the business standards, practices, and regulations for transportation services in some jurisdictions.
On December 8, the City of Portland publicly announced that it had filed a lawsuit against Uber. According to the statement, "The lawsuit seeks declaratory relief that Uber is subject to and in violation of the City of Portland’s Private for Hire Transportation Regulations and Administrative Rules....[and] asks the Court to order Uber to stop operating in Portland until it is in compliance with the City’s safety, health and consumer protection rules."
Concerns Regarding Safety
City officials contend that Uber's lack of vehicle and driver permits present a safety risk to passengers and drivers. Vehicles-for-hire, such as taxis, are required to meet city regulations. According to Mayor Charlie Hales, "Taxi cab companies follow rules on public health and safety. So do hotels and restaurants and construction companies and scores of other service providers. Because everyone agrees: good regulations make for a safer community. Uber disagrees, so we’re seeking a court injunction.”
Uber's Head of Global Safety, Phillip Cardenas, posted a statement on the company's blog on December 17th, describing their future vetting and accountability processes for drivers, which will include GPS tracking, background checks, and collaborations with the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). As for their current safety measures, Cardenas wrote, "Across the U.S. and in dozens of countries around the world Uber conducts thorough, multi-layered background checks that have resulted in tens-of-thousands of potential drivers being denied the opportunity to partner on the Uber platform."
Cease and Desist Order
On the day of the lawsuit announcement, the City of Portland also issued a cease and desist letter to Uber. The letter calls on the transportation company to "immediately cease and desist operating within the City of Portland until such time as appropriate permits are obtained and Uber is in full compliance with the requirements of PCC Chapter 16.40."
However, Uber continued to provide service to the city of Portland, allowing passengers to get price quotes and Uber rides until December 18. On that day, Uber reached a deal with the City of Portland to voluntarily suspend its operations in the city for three months, until further negotiations could be held.
Uber's Online Petition
It seems that this transportation company is relying heavily on grassroots awareness to promote its services. If you take a look at the hashtag, #PDXneedsUber, the company and its fans are rallying support and signatures for continued ridesharing service in the city. The petition addresses Mayor Hales and had accumulated 11,902 signatures as of December 18. Fans of the company also attended a launch party at the Union/Pine venue on December 9, which featured artwork inspired by the ridesharing culture.
The petition states, "Voters like myself consider this a critical issue and I hope that you will work with Uber to find a permanent home for ridesharing in Portland." According to the company's goal metrics, they are hoping to collect a total of 15,000 signatures in favor of Uber's presence in Portland.
Potential Driver Fines
The Bureau of Transportation also release another statement on December 5, warning Uber drivers operating in Portland that they would be subject to fines for continuing to provide service. Oregon Live reports that individual drivers had a grace period to comply. However, this period will soon be up, and policy advisor Bryan Hockaday told the publication, "After receiving two warnings, drivers will now be issued penalties." Oregon Live also reveals that Uber as a whole has been fined $67,750 by the City of Portland. However, driver fines may no longer be a concern due to Uber's voluntary suspension of service.
Since the rideshare company continued to operate in the city without permission for almost two weeks, the city planned to pursue a restraining order against Uber, during an upcoming hearing on December 23.
Since Uber has gotten off to such a rocky start in the city of Portland, it's difficult to tell how future discussions will go for the ridesharing company. Mayor Hales told the Willamette Week that "The city and Uber started off on the wrong foot." Only time will tell whether future city regulation updates and ride-sharing will be able to coexist.
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