Dolly, the app that connects people with trucks to people who need help moving, faces an uncertain future in the state where it got its start.
Washington state regulators ordered Dolly to cease operations back in March, ruling that the company was a “household goods carrier,” operating without the proper license and requirements.
Dolly applied for that license and continued operating in Washington. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission said it planned to deny the application so representatives from Dolly headed to Olympia, Wash. to plead their case before the commission Wednesday.
Dolly is seeking a household goods carrier permit with some exceptions because the company isn’t a traditional mover. From Dolly’s perspective, it simply provides the underlying technology, insurance, and background checks to connect movers and helpers. It’s a familiar argument that other gig economy services, like Uber and Postmates have made.
Because Dolly doesn’t own moving trucks or employ movers, parts of the permit do not apply. Dolly isn’t able to obtain U.S. Department of Transporation Number, for example.
“Dolly is certainly not alone,” said Dolly CEO Mike Howell during Wednesday’s hearing. “Amazon and Lugg and Pickup and others provide the same set of services we do.”
Dolly is working with the Washington state legislature to pass a bill regulating gig economy companies.
“Obviously, this is an extremely frustrating position to be in given all the work we’ve done with the WUTC going back to the bill we introduced with their support in the last legislative session,” Howell said before the hearing.
A key focus of the hearing was whether Dolly complied with the cease and desist order. Armikka Bryant, Dolly’s legal chief, claimed that the company believed the order only applied to advertising and marketing in Washington state.
“Dolly genuinely believed that the cease and desist order applied to specific messaging in its internet marketing,” he said.
Jeff Roberson, an assistant attorney general for Washington, argued that Dolly did not take meaningful action to communicate that it isn’t a moving company to customers in the state.
“Their conduct over the last six, seven months has been inherently a challenge to the commission’s authority,” Roberson said during the hearing. “The commission repeatedly told Dolly to cease and desist.”
Dolly operates in Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Denver, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston. The company isn’t saying whether it will continue to operate in Washington if its provisional permit is denied. But Howell said the company “will continue to work with the WUTC and State Congress to create the right environment that allows for a service that consumers so obviously need.”
The commission has 60 days to issue its final order.
Update: Howell provided the following statement after the hearing to clarify Dolly’s position.
“We greatly appreciated the opportunity to plead our case in front of the Commissioners as to why Dolly should be granted a provisional household goods permit. I am disappointed that the WUTC counsel’s strategy was to paint a picture that Dolly has been untruthful and defiant. We recognize that our business presents challenges for the existing permit process but we want to collaborate with the UTC on working them out, just as we have been collaborating with them on bringing about larger regulatory change over the last couple of years.
At the highest level, Dolly is 100% aligned with the WUTC’s stated mission – to protect the people of Washington by ensuring that transportation services are safe, available, reliable and fairly priced. Dolly’s intent is to create the household brand name that stands for the best-in-class local moving and delivery experience – an experience that consumers will turn to time and time again. Providing a service that is safe, readily available, reliable and affordable is at the very heart of that purpose.”