The city of Boise has issued a cease-and-desist order to Uber, the app-based car service company. City officials say Uber is violating an agreement not to charge passengers until the city gives it the go ahead.
Uber has been operating in Boise since October under a temporary agreement with the city. Boise and Uber were in negotiations for a permanent contract.
City spokesman Mike Journee says, while negotiations were ongoing, the city allowed Uber to provide free trials, but not to charge customers for service. Journee says the city learned this week that Uber drivers had begun charging Boise passengers.
An Uber spokesman says the company notified drivers Dec. 26 it would begin charging in Boise. He says Uber did agree to begin by offering free trials in Boise, but did not agree to continue the practice for a specific time.
Journee says a permanent agreement was close to happening, with a proposal expected for city council approval in January. He says the city wanted to make sure Uber drivers would meet the same safety requirements as city-licensed taxis.
He says negotiations can resume if Uber complies with the cease-and-desist order. But the timeframe for an agreement won’t necessarily be the same.
“The agreement to allow Uber to operate in the city without charging was a good faith effort on the city of Boise’s part,” Journee says. “If they can meet the standards we expect our public transportation system to have, we would love to have them as part of that. But until they are willing to negotiate in a good faith way to make that happen, it’s unlikely that it will.”
Uber sent us this written statement:
"In a matter of months, thousands of Boiseans have embraced Uber as a safe, reliable option to move around town and make a living. It's unfortunate City officials are seeking to limit access to safe rides on a night when impaired-driving rates are at their highest. We look forward to continuing to connect Boiseans to the people and places they love as we work with City Officials to craft regulations that embrace choice and innovation."
Uber has a growing list of conflicts with cities. Earlier this month, Portland, Ore. gave the company a cease-and-desist order and filed a law suit against it. Uber and Portland have since reached a compromise. Uber agreed to stop operating until April while Portland officials work on new regulations.
Boise's Mike Journee also says the timing of Uber’s move to charge Boise residents is suspect. New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest nights of the year for taxies and car services. USA Today reports that Uber can charge more than seven times its normal rates during peak days. An Uber spokesman says the company does not expect to use 'dynamic pricing' in Boise New Year's Eve.
Journee urges Boiseans not to use Uber until the issue is resolved.
Clarification: Since this story was first published we have added additional information on the relationship between Uber and Portland. And we have added a response from the company about pricing.
Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam
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