FTC to D.C. Taxicab Commission: Avoid "Unwarranted Regulatory Restrictions"

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Taxis outside Union Station in Washington, D.C.

Tech companies are complaining. A D.C. Council member is urging restraint. And now the Federal Trade Commission is asking the D.C. Taxicab Commission to be careful when it comes to weighing new regulations for app-based hailing services reshaping Washington's vehicle-for-hire industry.

The FTC says proposed rules up for consideration on June 25 may stifle competition. In written comments submitted to the DCTC, the FTC is recommending the agency avoid "unwarranted regulatory restrictions."

The tech companies Uber Taxi and mytaxi, two of seven now operating in Washington, are complaining about a new mandate requiring they integrate their app systems with whatever credit card payment machines taxi drivers install in their vehicles by a Sept. 1 deadline. The FTC is also concerned the proposals, designed to protect passengers from fraud, will be cumbersome.

In a statement, DCTC chair Ron Linton said the commission appreciates the comments from the FTC. "During the regulatory process we consider all comments seriously. We do believe the intent of the proposed regulations will allow the market to determine the selection of services," he wrote.

Earlier this week D.C. Council member Mary Cheh cautioned the proposed rules may stifle innovation and harm consumer choice.

Uber applauded the FTC's comments. "The FTC has recognized that there are serious problems with the DC Taxi Commission’s proposed regulations that would limit consumer choice in the District and impose unprecedented technological barriers. It’s time for the DCTC to listen to the overwhelming opinion of the DC Council, District residents, and the FTC, and to stop trying to hamstring innovative transportation options like Uber," said the company's Washington general manager Rachel Holt.