Uber’s Legal Adventures in Ann Arbor

On May 14, Ann Arbor City Attorney Kristen Larcom sent cease and desist letters to Uber and Lyft, two on-demand taxi-like apps, yet four months later, both companies are still operating in Ann Arbor and no one has been prosecuted. For both of these companies, operating in a legal grey-zone is familiar terrain. For example, within the past year many other government bodies including Memphis, Virginia, and Detroit have all issued cease and desist letters, which were promptly ignored. So why have

Uber and Lyft been allowed to operate and what is their future here in Ann Arbor?

Uber and Lyft have been able to operate in Ann Arbor because the cease and desist letters have not been enforced. A similar thing happened in Detroit last year. Uber and Lyft were both issued cease and desist letters yet few, if any people were cited, and the city council debated how to regulate both of the services.

A similar pattern has emerged in Ann Arbor, where the City Council has been debating how to regulate these companies. Several ordinance change measures, which would have allowed Uber and Lyft to operate in Ann Arbor have narrowly failed to pass. One such measure would have forced both companies to comply with Michigan state law for limousines, which likely would have proven too costly for Uber and Lyft to operate in Ann Arbor. However, in September, the Ann Arbor City Council voted 8-3 to allow a city administrator to negotiate an operating agreement with Uber and Lyft. The city council hopes to vote on the resulting agreements by October 20th.

In Detroit, the city government has come to an agreement with Uber and Lyft, and they are now operating legally on two-year agreements — hopefully Ann Arbor follows.

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