A car with a Lyft mustache in San Francisco.(Deborah Svoboda/KQED)
A car with a Lyft mustache in San Francisco.(Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Update, 4 p.m. Friday: Lyft has issued a response to the injunction threat from the San Francisco and L.A. DAs:

Ridesharing has been enthusiastically embraced by California residents and we have worked closely with the California Public Utilities Commission over the past two years to secure a future for this innovative option throughout the state. We are confident that we can work with the District Attorneys’ offices to address the items outlined in their letter and look forward to discussing with them soon to do so.

Original post (Thursday): San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and his counterpart in Los Angeles are threatening action against ride-service companies Uber, Lyft and Sidecar over alleged violations of state law.

In a letter to San Francisco-based Sidecar (embedded below), Gascón said an investigation conducted with L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has found the company has made misleading statements about its background checks on drivers and has illegally quoted individual fares for passengers.

The letter promised legal action against the company unless it meets with prosecutors by Oct. 8 to discuss how it will remedy the alleged violations.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s office confirmed that letters had been hand-delivered to Uber, Lyft and Sidecar on Thursday, but declined to provide copies. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the DAs made similar allegations against all three companies.

Lyft and Uber did not respond immediately to requests for comment on the DAs’ action. Sidecar provided a copy of the letter it received, which says in part:

Sidecar Technologies Inc. has engaged, and continues to engage, in the following unlawful business practices:

  • Making misleading representations on Sidecar’s website that lead consumers to believe the Sidecar’s background check screens out drivers who have ever committed driving violations, DUI, sexual assault and other criminal offenses; and
  • Calculating Sidecar’s “Shared Ride service fares on an individual-fare basis in violation of Public Utilities Code Section 5401.

The Shared Rides service is a form of carpooling that all three of the major ride-service firms have rolled out in recent months. It gives customers the option of sharing rides, and payment, with other ride-service users on an impromptu basis.

In a statement, Sidecar said, “We strongly disagree with the assertion by San Francisco and Los Angeles County District Attorney Office’s that connecting people for Sidecar Shared Rides is illegal. Shared Rides are great for California because they are safe and affordable, cut down on traffic congestion and reduce pollution. The District Attorneys are trying to enforce laws written for limousines, in an era before smartphones. Sidecar will continue to operate and expand Shared Rides.”

The company’s statement did not address the allegations about its background check.

Gascón also issued a statement, which argues the district attorneys are acting on behalf of ride-service customers: “We value innovation and new modes of providing service to the public; however we need to make sure that the safety and wellbeing of consumers are adequately protected in the process.”

  • Shannon Pleskac

    One of the things that bugs me most about these “rideshare” companies is that their open disregard for laws and regulations. “Yes, we know that SFO says it’s illegal for us to serve the airport, but WE think it should be legal, so we’re doing it anyway.”

  • Boopboopadoop

    They are above the law because they are “innovative”. It’s a complete sham. I applaud the DA for taking action. SF government has tolerated (and abetted) these
    criminals for far too long.


Bryan Goebel

Bryan Goebel is a reporter focused on transportation and housing issues. He was previously the editor of Streetsblog San Francisco, and an anchor/editor at KCBS Radio. He's a lifelong Californian and has also worked at radio stations in Barstow, Redding and Sacramento.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Email Dan at: dbrekke@kqed.org

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