The Internet Law Resource Center™ is the complete information solution for practitioners in cyberlaw. Follow the latest developments on ICANN’s gTLD program, keyword advertising, online privacy,...
May 27 — Ride-sharing company Uber Technologies Inc. has asked the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to reconsider a $11.4 million fine imposed on the company in April, saying the order is unreasonable and beyond the law ( BIE v. Uber, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, No C-2104-2422723, petition for rehearing and reconsideration 5/25/16 ).
In a petition for rehearing and reconsideration dated May 25, Uber argued that the commission “overreached” when it issued a penalty five times greater than any it had ever imposed, including for cases involving financial harm, property damage and fatalities. In the 102-page filing, the company offered new data about the number of rides during the five-month period in question, and argued the PUC should set the fine based on the number of days it operated rather than the number of trips that took place.
The petition underscores the difficulty public officials are having evaluating the scope and severity of the ride-sharing company's violations, and the balance between promoting innovation and protecting consumers. The commission imposed a much smaller fine than administrative law judges recommended, but much greater than its own enforcement arm initially sought.
“Our hope is that the new information presented in this filing will give the Commissioners ample reason to reconsider the unprecedented and wholly disproportionate fine,” Uber said May 27 in a written statement May 27. “As elected officials and several business organizations have pointed out, the disparate treatment of two competitors is patently unfair and paints Pennsylvania as an unwelcome and uncertain place for new investment and innovation.”
Commission spokeswoman Robin Tilley told Bloomberg BNA May 27 that regulators would carefully review Uber's petition before deciding on further action.
The commission voted 3-2 on April 21 to fine the San Francisco-based company $11.4 million for operating in Pittsburgh from February 2014 through August 2014 without proper authority, and for ignoring discovery requests (21 ECLR 622, 4/27/16).
The fine was about a fifth of the $50 million penalty that two administrative law judges recommended in November 2015. The Commission's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (BIE) initially sought $95,000 in civil penalties (20 ECLR 1738, 12/16/15).
In the petition, Uber argued the $11.4 million penalty is unreasonably high, violates federal and state guarantees against “excessive fines,” and is 45 times more than the amount imposed on its competitor, Lyft, for the exact same service. The company said the new evidence shows the penalty is 110 times greater than net revenues that Uber subsidiary Rasier-PA LLC earned during the period between July 2, 2014 and Aug. 20, 2014, when a cease and desist order was in effect.
The company also noted that government leaders, state legislators and business groups have also called on the commission to reconsider the fine. In a May 3 joint letter to the PUC Commissioners, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said that “if state regulators continue displaying such hostility in the face of technological change, Uber and other companies may be forced to reconsider whether Pennsylvania is the right place to build the future.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Leslie A. Pappas in Philadelphia at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joseph Wright at email@example.com
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)