Uber Wins Another Set of Taxi Antitrust Attacks

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By Eleanor Tyler

Uber Technologies Inc. successfully won dismissal of a group of antitrust claims by Boston taxi companies alleging that the ride-hailing company was trying to monopolize the market by driving down prices.

The court previously decided that unfair competition claims under state law can continue into discovery in the suit. The court’s dismissal impacts only state and federal antitrust claims.

U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts Judge Nathaniel Gorton said the taxi companies can’t argue that Uber harmed competition in the Boston ride-hailing market when all they asserted is that Uber flooded the market with ride options and drove down prices. That might have hurt taxi companies, the court said, but it doesn’t show the kind of harm to competition that the antitrust laws are designed to protect against.

The court relied heavily on the reasoning from a similar case in Philadelphia, in which the district court decided that the complaining taxi companies didn’t show harm to competition or any anticompetitive conduct by Uber. That ruling was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Seven groups of plaintiffs representing over 800 taxi companies in the Greater Boston area filed suit between December 2016 and April 2017. The actions were consolidated for more efficient litigation before Gorton.

The complaints asserted unfair competition, aiding and abetting unfair competition, and civil conspiracy to commit unfair competition that the court earlier said are adequate to proceed to discovery. But state and federal antitrust claims, along with racketeering claims brought by the taxi companies, didn’t survive.

The plaintiffs’ antitrust claims were based on predatory pricing, a difficult case to prove because lower prices help consumers. In this case, the court found no allegations that Uber’s prices for its UberX service were below Uber’s costs. The plaintiffs also failed to allege the necessary details about how and why Uber’s conduct was an antitrust violation, the court said.

Without those allegations, there is no evidence Uber had an intent to monopolize in driving down costs, nor do taxi companies have standing to complain if there isn’t a harm to competition writ large, even though individual taxi companies may have been harmed, the court said.

The case is Malden Transp., Inc. v. Uber Techs., Inc. , 2018 BL 215485, D. Mass., 16-12538-NMG Civil Action No. 17-10142-NMG Civil Action No. 17-10180-NMG Civil Action No. 17-10316-NMG Civil Action No. 16-12651-NMG Civil Action No. 17-10586-NMG Civil Action No. 17-10598-NMG, 6/18/18 .

To contact the reporter on this story: Eleanor Tyler in Washington at etyler@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com

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