Why am I paying more fare for the same ride?
June 1, 2009 4:39 PM   Subscribe

The local taxi company charges more if they know you're on your way to catch the competing airport shuttle. Is this legal?

Say we're in Bloomington, Indiana, and we're trying to get to the Indianapolis airport. There's a shuttle that runs from town to the airport, but we need to get downtown to catch the shuttle. The local cab company, which also happens to provide "door-to-door" service to the Indianapolis airport, says we have to pay per person for a ride to catch the shuttle. A normal trip downtown would not incur a per-person fee. I was advised by the cab driver to next time choose another drop-off location and lie about my true destination if I didn't want to pay the extra charge. The cab driver also said that with the extra cab fee, it "might make more sense" to take the cab all the way to the airport.

This strikes me as anti-competitive. Is it legal?

If not legal, who would be best to handle the complaint?
posted by joe vrrr to Law & Government (14 answers total)
I'd first find out if taxi service is regulated in your town (it is in many major cities) and then ask the regulating agency. I think you'll find that taxi companies listen rather well to their appropriate regulatory agency (albeit noone else), since losing their license will immediately put them out of business. I think it's more likely for you to find that taxi fees are set and hence, this difference in fare would violate that rule.

If there is no regulation of taxi fees, I don't really see anything illegal about it. Honestly, I can't really blame the company for wanting to discourage you from decreasing their profit. That said, I am not a lawyer.
posted by saeculorum at 4:52 PM on June 1, 2009

Nowhere near legal. Rates must be displayed on the cab and honored. If you have any questions or complaints, contact the License Section at 952-563-8728.
posted by halogen at 4:55 PM on June 1, 2009

Cab fares tend to be a very locally regulated industry, you'll usually need to contact the local regulatory agency. (Note I'm not sure if this is indianapolis or bloomington)

That being said, pretty much everywhere I've gone they must clearly post fare's and rates in the cabs.
posted by bitdamaged at 4:58 PM on June 1, 2009

Oops, sorry: wrong Bloomington. In that case, saeculorum is right. Call your local non-emergency number and find out whether the city regulates taxicab services.
posted by halogen at 4:59 PM on June 1, 2009

Note: haologen's link is for Bloomington Minnesota.
posted by bitdamaged at 5:00 PM on June 1, 2009

The agency that regulates taxi cabs may actually require a set rate for rides to the airport; this may include a requirement to charge $_ for each person in the cab going to the airport.

Not sure if this is the case, but I wanted to present the other side.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:07 PM on June 1, 2009

Response by poster: The cab wasn't going to the airport, but rather going to the shuttle service downtown. I'm used to paying extra for going to the airport, but not an extra charge based solely on my intentions after I exit the cab.

There was no meter or fare card posted in the cab, at least that I could find. The driver just called into dispatch to get the fare. I'll call the city in the morning. More than one local source told me the cabs are unregulated.
posted by joe vrrr at 5:23 PM on June 1, 2009

I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. This is almost certainly also illegal under the Sherman Antitrust Act. Been way too long since I took my antitrust class, but this seem like a textbook example. So, taxi regulations aside, no, not legal. If the shuttle company were interested, I'm sure they could find a lawyer who'd be happy to take the case.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 5:31 PM on June 1, 2009

The cabs around here (legally) charge a per-person fee like you describe for trips to and from the airport.

I'm guessing that these guys are rounding "to the airport shuttle" into "to the airport" and giving you that fee. It's probably not legal, and you should call the regulators and find out exactly what kinds of trips can legally incur special airport fares.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 5:44 PM on June 1, 2009

The usual justification for an extra charge to the airport is that the airport charges a fee to cabs that drop off at the airport. That wouldn't seem to apply here.
posted by raf at 6:02 PM on June 1, 2009

Response by poster: I should have noted that the cab's destination in our case is 48 miles from the airport. I hope they don't try to make the "to the airport" excuse.
posted by joe vrrr at 6:43 PM on June 1, 2009

coming down on the other side of the fence, I've noticed that most cabs have their rates painted on their doors, which often include specifically stating a service charge for going to the airport. Not sure how that fits in with Antitrust acts.
posted by OrangeDrink at 6:47 PM on June 1, 2009

This isn't likely an antitrust problem. I highly doubt that they're doing anything illegal here. The city code doesn't seem to have any regulation of taxi prices though, so that doesn't seem to be an issue. For all we know, this is a deal arranged between the taxi company and the shuttle company, e.g. the taxi company has to pay the shuttle to drop people off.

One thing which you might be able to nail them on is charging a fare not printed on their fare card, which must be prominently displayed in every cab, as required by Ordinance 4.24.110. If the per-person charge for the shuttle destination doesn't appear on that card, then they can't legally charge it.

As to where to complain, Ordinance 4.24.150 provides that complaints about taxi service or violations should be directed to the Board of Public Works. Which meets alternate Tuesdays at 5:30. This provision might well preclude a private cause of action (a court could say that you haven't exhausted administrative remedies and dismiss your complaint as unripe), so I'd show up there before calling a lawyer.

IANAL yet, but this isn't really legal advice anyways.
posted by valkyryn at 8:36 PM on June 1, 2009

Sure sounds like price gouging to me.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:14 AM on June 2, 2009

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