Omar Villafranca, NBC 5 News
The city of Dallas is considering the popular car service phone app Uber. Some city leaders are pushing for more oversight of Uber, which taxi cab companies such as Cowboy Cab complain isn't regulated by the city. Taxi company owners say it amounts to an unfair advantage. In the fine print on Uber's website, the company states it is "a request tool, not a transportation carrier."
Add Dallas to the list of cities having problems with a popular car service phone app.
Some city leaders are pushing for more oversight of Uber, which taxi cab companies such as Cowboy Cab complain isn't regulated by the city. Taxi company owners say it amounts to an unfair advantage.
"Uber is an unregulated transportation service," said Saied Rafie, owner of Cowboy Cab. "As a transportation, as a taxi company, we are heavily regulated."
Cab companies in Dallas have to follow a myriad of rules, from how many years a taxi cab can be on the road to the insurance policy amount per cab.
"It's not a competition at all," Rafie said. "It's not even close to a fair competition. We're in a different industry. We're a taxi service provider. We're regulated by the city."
But in the fine print on Uber's website, the company states it is "a request tool, not a transportation carrier."
Uber did not respond to emails sent to its national office and Dallas office.
In an emailed statement, Dallas city spokesman Frank Librio said city leaders want to regulate Uber to protect customers:
"The proposed ordinance on the August 28 City Council agenda contains minor clarifications to the existing regulations for limousines in Chapter 10A, without impacting the 225 companies that are currently licensed by the City and operating legally. These clarifications strengthen the City's position that a company that advertises and dispatches limousines for hire must first have operating authority from the City.
The transportation-for-hire industry is changing and Dallas welcomes new entrants and technology, provided that all companies operate legally and on a level playing field that is safe, reliable and fair to consumers.
The proposed ordinance does not prevent Uber from operating in Dallas. It simply clarifies that Uber is a limousine company under the city's ordinance and is subject to the city's regulation of limousine companies. It is important for the public to be aware that if emerging companies like Uber are not subject to the same regulation as other limousine and taxi services, the public might have no recourse should the vehicle be involved in an accident; the consumer experience a pay dispute; or any other consumer protection or safety issue. The proposed ordinance is intended to protect the consumers that enjoy this service.
These clarifications are an initial step towards a coming larger discussion with the City Council on the City's role in regulating the transportation-for-hire industry. For this reason, a briefing memorandum was sent to City Council on Friday, advising them of the addendum item on the August 28, 2013 agenda."
Dallas Councilman Scott Griggs told NBC 5 that he didn't like the hasty way the issue was added to the council agenda. He called it a "red flag" and said he didn't like the way the city manager's office handled the agenda item.
Griggs also told NBC 5 he supports Uber in Dallas, but that he wants the city to discuss possible ordinance changes in committees and with full discussion.
Griggs also confirmed reports that Dallas police vice-squad members were involved in pulling over and writing citations to Uber drivers. Griggs said he was concerned that officers were assigned the job instead of pursuing other duties. He said he plans to ask other city leaders and the city manager's office more details on the operations.
Librio released a statement discussing the police operations:
"Soon after Code Compliance became aware that Uber had begun operations in Dallas, Code Compliance staff requested DPD assistance to investigate and detect violations. DPD officers have authority to issue citations for any violation of the Dallas City Code. In addition, DPD's assistance helped protect the public's safety by verifying that the limousine drivers had permits to operate their limousines and their limousines had been inspected by the City."
The City Council will meet on Wednesday to begin discussion on the possibility of new regulations.