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  1. Florida Politics

Taxi companies sue state over Uber, Lyft

Published Sep. 8, 2015

TALLAHASSEE — Taxi companies in Tallahassee and Fort Lauderdale have sued the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in the latest attempt to curb the growth of tech companies like Uber and Lyft.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday says that smartphone apps and GPS tracking used by ridesharing companies should be treated the same as taxis' fare meters under Florida law and be subject to testing and approval by the state.

"They both are necessary to compute the time and distance associated with a commercial passenger trip taken in a taxicab or a private car utilized by a (ridesharing company) driver, in order to determine the customer's fare," the lawsuit says. "However, one is tested and certified by the Department of Agriculture, and the other is not."

By not enforcing the same regulations on Uber and Lyft that it does on cab companies, the lawsuit says, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has created a competitive disadvantage.

Broward County cab company BL Services, Tallahassee cab company Capital Transportation and Jeremy Lynch, a Tallahassee Uber customer who, according to the lawsuit, has complained about fares, filed the suit.

The plaintiffs want Judge George Reynolds in Florida's Second Circuit to force the state to regulate smartphone apps used by ridesharing companies.

About one hour after the lawsuit was filed Tuesday afternoon, Reynolds ordered the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to respond by Sept. 28.

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam did not immediately return requests for comment. Neither did representatives of Uber or Lyft.

Similar lawsuits have been successful in other states, including California, and lawyers for the cab companies say they're confident Florida's laws are broad enough to include apps and GPS tracking in the realm of technology that should be tested by the state.

"They enforce those statutes against our clients, but not (ridesharing companies) or their drivers," said the cab companies' lawyer, Ryan Andrews, in a written statement. "It's not necessarily Uber's fault that the Department of Agriculture doesn't enforce their own laws against Uber; it's the state's fault."

Andrews is the son of Tallahassee lawyer Steven Andrews, who last month was paid $700,000 by Gov. Rick Scott to settle seven public records lawsuits.

This is the latest in an ongoing fight over the government's role in regulating Uber and Lyft.

Hillsborough County, in particular, has fought hard to block Uber and Lyft. Last month, a judge denied an injunction to prevent the transportation network companies from operating in the county, but the Public Transportation Commission will continue ticketing drivers.

Contact Michael Auslen at mauslen@tampabay.com. Follow @MichaelAuslen.