Las Vegas Sun

June 24, 2017

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Multiple drivers cited within hours of Uber launch

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Las Vegas Sun File

Taxis wait at “the pit” for fares at McCarran International Airport. At any time, there are about 2,000 cabs on Las Vegas streets.

Uber’s Las Vegas honeymoon has been short: Three of the ridesharing company’s drivers were cited by taxicab regulators within hours of its launch today.

Nevada Taxicab Authority spokeswoman Teri Williams said as of 3:30 p.m., three Uber drivers in Las Vegas and one in Reno have been cited for illegally offering rides for hire.

Uber, which allows users to order a ride from its independent network of drivers through a smartphone app, launched in Nevada today.

In a statement, Uber said it “vigorously defends the rights of our partner drivers and firmly stands by them when they are wrongly cited or impounded.” The company said it will cover any financial or legal costs associated with the citations.

Uber has run into regulatory problems in many of the hundred plus cities it currently operates in around the country. The company has persisted despite opposition from regulators and taxi cab companies and has been largely successful in lobbying for new laws legitimizing their service.

But in Nevada, the company’s business model is currently considered illegal, Williams said, because the company has not applied for the Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity required to transport passengers for hire.

Without obtaining a certificate, Uber is considered an unlicensed operator and its drivers could face fines or have their vehicles impounded if caught by taxicab authority regulators, Williams said.

The authority employs a fleet of investigators to enforce its laws and will rely primarily on anonymous tips and passenger complaints to locate Uber drivers, Williams said.

Prior to the launch, Uber representatives were confident they could operate in Las Vegas without running afoul of state law. Spokesman Lane Kasselman said current Nevada laws don’t consider a service like Uber, creating a grey area that needs further definition.

The company has shied away from comparisons to taxi companies, instead framing itself as a technology platform that connects riders with drivers. Uber drivers are independent contractors and use their private vehicles to deliver rides.

Taxi cab companies have been more direct in their criticism of Uber, accusing the company of willingly breaking the law.

“In order to operate in Las Vegas as a transportation company, you need to apply with either the taxi authority or the (Nevada Transportation Authority) to do so. Uber knows that and they refuse to do it,” said Jonathan Schwartz, director at Yellow Checker Star. “It’s no different than a casino opening on the Strip and thumbing their nose at the gaming control board.”

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