The Uber vs. Portland showdown continues to progress, with the city filing a lawsuit on Monday afternoon against the transportation startup.
As we reported earlier today, Portland regulators spent the past weekend documenting three Uber drivers who were operating without proper licensing required of taxi companies. Uber launched in Portland on Friday evening, much to the disdain of city officials.
With that documentation on hand, the city is now suing Uber and “is asking for a declaration by the court that Uber is subject to the City’s regulations.”
“The lawsuit also asks the Court to order Uber to stop operating in Portland until it is in compliance with the City’s safety, health and consumer protection rules,” the city noted.
The city also issued a cease-and-desist letter to Uber on Monday, which was noted in the lawsuit.
“Our main concern is public health and safety, because the state invested in the cities the responsibility to do that,” Mayor Charlie Hales said in a statement. “Beyond that, though, is the issue of fairness. Taxi cab companies follow rules on public health and safety. So do hotels and restaurants and construction companies and scores of other service providers. Because everyone agrees: good regulations make for a safer community. Uber disagrees, so we’re seeking a court injunction.”
Portland’s Transportation Bureau also issued two civil penalties against Uber on Monday for operating without the correct permits. It also threatened to issue civil and criminal penalties to drivers who “repeatedly” work without a permit.
And that’s not all. The city issued a separate cease-and-desist letter to Uber for “unauthorized use” of the classic “Portland, Oregon” sign in its advertising (you can see it in the screenshot above).
Finally, the city put together an FAQ specifically for this situation.
We’ve reached out to Uber for a response and will update when we hear back. Update: Here is Uber’s response:
Uber has received a tremendously warm welcome from riders and drivers in and around Portland. We appreciate the way residents have welcomed Uber into the Rose City, their support illustrates why it’s time to modernize Portland transportation regulation. In less than 4 hours, nearly 7,000 Portland residents have signed the petition in support of Uber and we remain hopeful that the city will listen to Portlanders who want safe, reliable, hassle-free ride options now.
Uber, which has no plans of ceasing operations, is asking citizens to sign a petition to “Support Uber Portland!”
“Sign the petition now and tell Mayor Hales and Portland’s leaders that this city not only needs Uber, but most importantly, it wants Uber,” reads the petition, which has almost 6,000 signatures.
We’ll see what Uber’s next move is. Last month in Nevada, the company suspended operations after the state’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against Uber and a judge later granted a request for a court order blocking the company. Uber is facing legal battles in several other cities.
When we spoke with Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger on Friday, she said that her company decided to launch without working with regulators because of the “outcry” from both drivers and riders who want Uber in the Rose City.
“I think launching is not an act of aggression on our part; it’s actually a hope to serve those people’s needs,” Steger said.
Over the past few months, Uber has launched in four Oregon cities surrounding Portland, but curiously stayed out of the state’s most popular area. Even though Uber spent the past 18 months trying to come to some sort of agreement with Portland regulators, it appeared that the company was going to play ball with the city — that’s certainly not the case anymore.
Full lawsuits and press release are below, as is a letter from Uber encouraging customers to sign the petition.
(Dec. 8, 2014) The City of Portland has filed suit against Uber Technologies Inc. in Multnomah County Circuit Court, after documenting that the California-based company started operating private-for hire transportation services in the city.
The lawsuit seeks declaratory relief that Uber is subject to and in violation of the City of Portland’s Private for Hire Transportation Regulations and Administrative Rules. The City’s lawsuit is asking for a declaration by the court that Uber is subject to the City’s regulations. The lawsuit also asks the Court to order Uber to stop operating in Portland until it is in compliance with the City’s safety, health and consumer protection rules.
Transportation Director Leah Treat on Monday morning issued a Cease and Desist Order to Uber. The order was cited in the lawsuit.
“I am hereby directing that Uber Technologies Inc…. or any other Uber affiliate entity immediately cease and desist operating within the City of Portland until such time as appropriate permits are obtained and Uber is in full compliance with the requirements of Portland City Code Chapter 16.40,” Treat wrote. “Please alert all Uber-affiliated drivers that they are to cease and desist.”
“Our main concern is public health and safety, because the state invested in the cities the responsibility to do that,” Mayor Charlie Hales said. “Beyond that, though, is the issue of fairness. Taxi cab companies follow rules on public health and safety. So do hotels and restaurants and construction companies and scores of other service providers. Because everyone agrees: good regulations make for a safer community. Uber disagrees, so we’re seeking a court injunction.”
City Commissioner Steve Novick, who oversees PBOT, said the City is prepared to issue civil and criminal penalties against Uber and its drivers for operating without required permits and inspections. The City of Portland requires permits for drivers and companies that offer taxi or executive sedan service within the city limits.
“If Uber thinks there should be no maximum price on what they charge Portlanders, they should make their case to the Portland City Council,” Novick said. “If Uber thinks taxi companies shouldn’t have to serve people with disabilities, they should make their case. If Uber thinks taxis should not have to have proper insurance in case of a crash, they should tell us why we should allow that.”
Uber drivers accepted and then later cancelled two rides requested by Portland Bureau of Transportation enforcement officials on Friday night. Uber drivers provided three rides to City enforcement officials on Saturday night. Uber has widely publicized that it was operating in Portland over the weekend.
The Transportation Bureau issued two civil penalties to Uber on Monday, one for operating without a company permit and another for operating without a vehicle permit.
As the City documents Uber’s unpermitted operations in Portland, the Bureau will issue warnings to Uber drivers and penalties to the company. Drivers found to be repeatedly operating without a permit may be subject to civil and criminal penalties.
An attorney representing the City of Portland also issued a Cease and Desist Order Monday to Uber for unauthorized use of the image of the historic “Portland, Oregon” sign in Old Town in its advertising. The sign’s image is a trademark registered with the State of Oregon. If Uber does not cease all commercial use of the sign by 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11, the City is prepared to seek a court order, damages and attorney’s fees.
The Transportation Bureau encourages the public to report illegal taxi operations, and complaints about any private for hire transportation provider to 503-865-2486 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Email from Uber to Portland customers:
On Friday, Uber was proud to launch in Portland, serving a community where more than 27,000 residents have indicated they want the option of safe, reliable and hassle-free transportation.
Additionally, thousands of Portlanders have eagerly signed up to partner with Uber as drivers and start earning an income with the resources they already have—a safe vehicle and a clean record.
Unfortunately, some city officials are threatening to shut down this economic opportunity for drivers and limit consumer choice for all Portland residents and visitors. An opportunity that cities around the US and the world are benefiting from.
Here’s what we want you to know:
- We remain committed to working with Portland’s leaders to create a permanent regulatory framework that affords Portlanders the flexibility and innovation offered by Uber.
- Thousands of people have already voiced their desire to Portland’s leaders to make the right decision and allow Uber to call Portland home.
- Portland is home to tens of thousands of people who rightfully are demanding a more reliable way to get around their city. With Uber, they finally have a ride when they need one–but now the freedom to connect with Portland like never before is being threatened.
We can’t let that happen — Portland, which is building a reputation as a tech hub, deserves better than that.
Mayor Hales has long been a leader who supports innovation as a way to strengthen the local economy. This is yet another way he can make a difference.
We’re asking you to sign our petition that will amplify your voice, and the voices of thousands of Portlanders in asking Mayor Hales to support Uber’s presence.
This is about more than picking sides. We’re here to become part of the fabric of Portland–by helping cut down on drunk driving, serving underserved communities, increasing transit to small business and helping drive the local economy.
Will you help us serve Portland?
Sign the petition now and tell Mayor Hales and Portland’s leaders that this city not only needs Uber, but most importantly, it wants Uber.
Team Uber Portland