Ride-sharing service Uber launched a counter attack on the taxi industry, specifically criticizing its lobbyists and government regulators in a blog post yesterday.
Uber’s head of public policy Corey Owens authored the post, titled “On Consumers, Competition and Collusion,” which described the startup’s frustration with government agencies that regulate taxis and limousines in major cities, who have been thwarting Uber’s efforts to expand there.
Cab drivers and local private transport unions all over the country have been vocal in their opposition to ride-sharing services such as Uber, calling it unfair competition, and and unsafe and sub-standard service. They have staged several protests to make their point.
Owen’s equated the ntagonism towards ride-sharing to the resistance met by famous tech entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs, Reed Hastings and Jeff Bezos when they were introducing their own status-quo challenging ideas. He argued that much like them, Uber was putting the consumer first.
These visionaries were vindicated by putting consumers first. They focused on what consumers wanted (one song at a time; one TV series but not the whole channel; a thousand books in my backpack please) and trusted that viable business models would emerge. They were vindicated by balance sheets that proved putting consumers first can be profitable.
Owen’s main criticism however was reserved for the government bodies regulating taxis and limos He accused them of being a “self-interested regulators” whose members included several representatives of the taxis companies they were supposed to regulate.
In Dallas, Yellow Taxi’s lawyer worked with city officials to organize a fruitless sting against Uber. In Colorado, Public Utilities Commission staff proposed anti-Uber regulations after a local taxi lobbyist wrote to them pleading for “rules changes” to address the Uber “issue.” In Missouri, the chairman of the Metropolitan St. Louis Taxicab Commission is a lobbyist who walks the halls of state government on behalf of the Commission, which is primarily made up of – you guessed it – taxi companies.
This is regulation by the taxi industry for the taxi industry. Consumers’ interests are getting bulldozed by lobbyists, campaign contributions, and cronyism run amok.
But is Uber truly the only one serving consumer’s interests? While the service is definitely convenient, especially for the tech savvy, it will have to find a way to co-exist in the current private transport economies who have been vocally (and in some cases physically antagonistic) towards the ride-sharers. Or else, fighting local cab drivers may end up becoming the defining image of the company’s brand.