Palm Beach News

Uber Gets Preferential Treatment From Palm Beach County Commissioners, Lawsuit Claims

Uber's competitors in Palm Beach County are upset over what they're saying is "special treatment" given to the ride-sharing company by county commissioners. So much so, that several transportation companies have banded together and filed a class-action lawsuit against Palm Beach County.

Back in March, commissioners entered into a temporary agreement to allow Uber to operate in the county, at the behest of the Chamber of Commerce. In a 4-3 vote, commissioners agreed to allow the ride-sharing company to operate under the same regulations as cab companies, though there are certain regulations that they're not following that other companies have been forced to.

“Uber is a large vehicle for hire company that has a history of coming into a particular city or county and attempting to obtain special treatment so that it need not comply with local and/or state regulations with which its competitors must comply,” reads part of the 53-page suit.

The plaintiffs, which include VTS Transportation, North County Transportation, A1A Airport, Prestige Limousines, and All Transit Solution, claim in the suit that the county's temporary operating agreement with Uber is "irrational" and "arbitrary." 

The suit says the agreement was made just to avoid a legal battle with Uber had the company been forced to follow the same regulations as other transportation companies. 

"Moreover, PBC's decision to do so was based on the payment of money from [Uber] to induce PBC from enforcing its rules, laws and codes applicable to both [the Plaintiffs and Uber]," the suit reads.

The plaintiffs say that they have will continue to suffer direct damages and are seeking monetary damages from the county and for commissioners to change their ruling of allowing Uber to operate under a different set of rules.

Aside from fairness, opponents of Uber have often pointed to safety being an issue for following specific regulations.

"Uber is largely operating without regulations designed to keep consumers safe," Walter Dartland, executive director of the Consumer Federation of the Southeast, tells New Times. "Such regulations as background checks, insurance coverage, and vehicle maintenance requirements aren't unnecessary red tape — they are practical policies designed first and foremost to keep the public safe."

Back in March, Dennis Grady, CEO of the Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce, sent Commissioner Steve Abrams a letter asking the commissioners to find a temporary solution and negoiate with Uber.

In his letter, Grady said the financial gain that the county has seen since Uber arrived in Palm Beach, as well as the ride-sharing service's popularity with residents, as a reason to enter into the Temporary Operating Agreement.

"[Uber] has connected hundreds of thousands of local people residing in and visiting our community with safe and reliable rides," part of Grady's letter reads.

Meanwhile, Broward County commissioners recently enforced regulations on Uber. In response, Uber said it cannot do business in Broward under those regulations. 

Palm Beach-Uber Class Action Lawsuit.pdf by Chris Joseph

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph