Confronted with consumer and tech-friendly innovations such as Uber, traditional taxicab companies have responded by the challenge of making their services less expensive and their taxis more pleasant in order to meet this new competition.
Just kidding. Of course, they have responded not by meeting competition, but by trying to use the regulatory process to protect themselves from competition from these consumer-friendly upstarts.
Josh Wright calls them out on it in the Washington Post:
In an Aug. 27 editorial, The Post also criticized the proposed regulations. The editorial made reference to the FTC letter, which Taxicab Commission chairman Ron Linton claimed Uber “had a hand in writing.” I can say without qualification that Linton’s comment is incorrect. At no point did Uber or any other company participate in any way in drafting the letter.
Linton’s uninformed comment tells us more about the commission’s approach to regulation than about the FTC’s. According to The Post, Linton described the commission’s regulatory role to that of a referee of competing interest groups. The appropriate referee for that competition is not the commission but consumers in the marketplace. Unlike the Taxicab Commission, the FTC does not weigh the interests of various groups in deciding to take action. The FTC serves the interest of only one group: consumers. And in the context of the taxicab industry, the FTC has long made clear through its advocacy efforts that local regulatory bodies should not stand in the way of companies like Uber that use new technology and new business methods to meet consumer demand unless there is the potential for substantial consumer harm.
If you are interested in reading more about the FTC’s advocacy program you can read the article I co-authored a few years ago on the topic.