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.”