On Thursday, the Virginia DMV sent cease-and-desist letters to ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft, asserting that their services are illegal in the Commonwealth, according to the Hampton Virginia-Pilot.
DMV Commissioner Richard Holcombe also “strongly” suggested the companies “focus their resources on participating in the state’s study ‘rather than continue illegal operations in the meantime.'”
The companies primarily operate in the Hampton Roads area and Northern Virginia. Their services allow consumers to use their smartphones to book rides with independent operators, who are rated by past customers. This author’s experience finds the service faster, more convenient, affordable and safer than regular taxi service.
Like many technology-driven developments, however, the law has not kept pace with changes in the marketplace.
VA officials actually acknowledge the benefits from services like Uber and Lyft. “I actually like their business model in terms of giving more flexibility to the public,” VA Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Lynne said. “[B]ut there are some issues they need to work on and some laws that we need to change.”
Uber, in a statement to the press, said the DMV cease order was “shocking and unexpected,” as the company had already been in contact with state officials about necessary changes to the law.
It is unclear whether the companies will comply with the DMV order, although the agency has threatened individual drivers with fines of $1,000 for every ride the complete. At the time of this article, Uber had 6 black sedans and a larger number of lower-priced cars available to pick up this author within 7 minutes.