Oof, Uber burned the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
The transportation company asked the PUC, the state agency that regulates taxis outside of Philly, for permission to operate its low-cost UberX service in Philly and its suburbs about three weeks ago, politely noting that it had “no intention to launch service in the Counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania without authority from the Commission.” (It should be noted, the PUC has no authority over Philadelphia County; that’s the turf of another state agency, the Philadelphia Parking Authority.)
When, in fact, Uber had been operating UberX for months in the suburbs.
That weekend it also launched UberX in Philadelphia and has continued to run the service since.
The story was first reported by the Inquirer. Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett skirted questions from the Inquirer about what Uber told the PUC.
Might the PUC come at UberX with a vengeance now?
Maybe not. The PUC is investigating UberX in the suburbs but has not filed any complains against drivers, PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher told Technical.ly Philly Monday. If the PUC catches an UberX driver, it can eventually fine him or her $1,000 and ask PennDOT to revoke their registration — but that’s only after a hearing process that can take months. In Pittsburgh, the PUC has 32 open cases against UberX drivers, Kocher said, some dating back to June.
(How does the PUC’s enforcement find these drivers? “Our Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement conducts sting operations or if someone is willing to testify against a driver, they can use that person’s testimony,” Kocher wrote in an email.)
As for UberX drivers in the suburbs, driver Rich Piotrowski, who covers Bucks and Montgomery Counties, said Uber has not warned drivers of any possible action from the state agency. Uber has only sent out emails assuring drivers that the company will cover any fines and other actions by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which has so far fined 11 drivers in Philadelphia and impounded their vehicles, according to the Inquirer. The Philadelphia Police Department could also arrest UberX drivers, the president of the police union told the Inquirer this weekend.
The PPA is also appealing to UberBLACK drivers — the folks already registered to drive black cars — to help them catch UberX drivers:
Our enforcement officers on the street have been inundated by complaints from Uber Black drivers regarding the drain Uber X is having on their work. We agree that it is patently unfair for Uber to offer your assignments to someone who is uncertified and operating an uninsured family car just to further increase their own profit margin. This disregard for your partnership is especially egregious, in light of all the certification requirements, training and vehicle financing obligations to which you have committed for this company.
REPORT UBER X VEHICLES
Call the PPA-TLD complaint line at 215-683-9440 and provide the tag number, location and vehicle description.
Email TLDEnforcement@philapark.org. Include the tag number, location and vehicle description.