LAKELAND – Hillsborough County’s minimum fair rule is meant to separate and protect two
very different modes of for-hire transportation, according to Kyle Cockream,
the executive director of the county’s Public Transportation Commission (PTC).
The rule recently
was challenged in court by a local limousine-service operator who said that
setting a minimum fair for limo drivers was unfair and anti-competitive.
The 2nd District
Court of Appeal disagreed, affirming a lower-court ruling allowing PTC to
enforce the rule.
“In the for-hire
transportation industry, there is a term that is used called ‘cannibalism,’”
Cockream told the Florida Record. “That’s what this rule is meant to prevent.”
He said cannibalism
refers to the practice of lowering limo fairs to compete with taxi drivers
during times when the limo driver doesn’t have other business.
He said it’s unfair
because the two modes of for-hire transportation are operated and regulated
Cab drivers, for
instance, operate in an “on-demand, street-hail” structure where they are given
prescribed driving hours to serve customers needing an immediate ride
operate in a “prearranged” structure where rides are set up in advance for
prescribed door-to-door service.
“So the primary
purpose and delivery of the service is how they are determined and regulated,”
Cockream said the
county does not regulate a minimum fare for cab drivers, because the service
isn’t prearranged, though it does regulate a maximum fare. For limos it’s the
opposite – with the minimum set, but no ceiling on the maximum that can be
“This is not
something that’s unique here,” he said. “It’s a pretty standard practice in big
cities around the country.”
He said the rule was
adapted to ensure that a taxicab is available for anybody who needs one. If
limo drivers “cannibalize” cab drivers’ fares when work is slow, that forces
cab drivers out of business and deprives the city of an essential service.
Limousine, which originally filed the suit in 2013, argued in court that the minimum
fair rule was anti-competitive because it kept customers from making their own
choices and negotiating their own fares.
Since the ruling,
the minimum fair has been reduced from $50 to $30.
Cockream said the
reduction was made in response to the complaints from the limo industry, but
that there are no plans to revisit or repeal the rule – especially after
winning the initial court case and subsequent appeal.
attorney said the move was welcome, but alluded to an effort to repeal the
county’s rule in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times newspaper. The company
was represented by the Florida Branch of the Institute for Justice, a law firm
that has filed similar suits across the country over government rules.
“It should not be
against the law to give customers a good deal,” Justin Pearson, the institute’s
attorney, said to the newspaper in a statement after the decision. “It is
unfortunate the court chose to disregard the Florida Constitution, but we take
solace in the fact that the minimum fare rule has been reduced and appears
destined for full repeal.”