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Uber Stockholm throw a PR-tantrum when refused unfair advantages (digitalmcgyver.com)
193 points by pathy 1634 days ago | hide | past | web | 251 comments | favorite



Reading their press release (the Swedish one, I'm a native Swedish speaker) I get a feeling that they are, quite frankly, not a serious business. It's filled with paranoid tinfoil hattery where they claim the Big Nasty Government is out to get them without actually pointing out what rules they're asked to comply with.

Sweden is fairly big on consumer protection, and price comparisons is generally a mandatory part of that (all groceries are mandated to list price per weight/volume/appropriate other unit so you can find out, say, which bag of rice is cheapest per kg, for instance - the same goes for taxi services and price per km). That they're being asked to follow those rules is hardly government bullying - in the eyes of most everyone here that definitely counts as "consumer protection".

It doesn't get better when they start spouting complete lies - the gibberish about certain unmarked taxi like services being exclusive to "royal families or prominent business leaders". Not related to reality at all.

To be honest, I'd never heard of this story before I saw it here. It certainly hasn't been covered by mainstream press. I don't live in Stockholm though, so it might be bigger there.


> It doesn't get better when they start spouting complete lies - the gibberish about certain unmarked taxi-like services being exclusive to "royal families or prominent business leaders". Not related to reality at all.

I was wondering about that too, but instead of declaring Uber to be lying here on HN, I went and looked for more information. What I found, was a news article that actually went and asked the Swedish Transport Agency for a comment[1].

STA's answer was that STA has had no direct contact with Uber, but had had contact with two companies that drive cars for Uber. Those two companies had asked for an exception from having an taximeter in the car (Swedish law requires one otherwise). STA denied the request, stating that to get an exception, one needs to follow the regulations of 1998, which states that exceptions are only allowed in exceptional cases, for instance when driving for royal families or prominent business leaders.

So, Uber is ... stretching the truth. Their claim is not a complete fabrication, but neither did they tell the whole story. I tend to put cases like this under the "company statement" category.

[1]: http://feber.se/webb/art/270558/transportstyrelsen_vill_kick...


Good catch. I certainly phrased that wrong. What is allowed, and open to anybody, is the kind of service that is charged strictly by time unit (usually by hour), and (as far as I know, at least) they don't need a taximeter. I think this is a healthy restriction, but obviously Uber hasn't considered using that payment model here.

So, yes, if they're insisting on using the "hybrid" payment model, they need a permit which is restricted to extraordinary events (essentially events where the customer won't care about the price, no matter how outrageous it is). In hindsight, I agree that calling it a lie is incorrect, I should have phrased it better. It does not, however, make me more forgiving w/r to their press release, as it's deliberately written as a factually lacking, misleading appeal to emotion.


I'm not an Uber user but don't really think they are stretching the truth:

- Permits exist for private car hire services in Sweden. The STA has issued them before.

- However these are currently reserved for circumstances eg members of royal families or prominent business leaders.

It isn't a stretch of the truth to say the STA are denying such permits to Uber, and that regular citizens should have the same services available to them as these other groups.


As a Swede I found it really weird that the "traffic agency" would be interested in protecting businesses. It really feels like someone is trying to do a direct translation of the US situation.

Lobbying isn't really a thing here, and is actually considered to be corruption. Whenever that sort of thing happens (which is pretty rare), the press is having a field day.


> Lobbying isn't really a thing here, and is actually considered to be corruption.

As an american, I would agree wholeheartedly that lobbying is most definitely corruption.

> Whenever that sort of thing happens (which is pretty rare), the press is having a field day.

Oh how I wish the US news would report something like this. Just once. But our media is in the government's pocket. Or, rather, big business' pocket, and the government in theirs. I guess that means I'm wearing a "tin-foil hat". Although I can't see it. Must be one of those government sponsored, brain-altering, invisible tin-foil hats. Bastards!

EDIT: Also, I've seriously considered moving to Sweden or one of the other Nordic (as we call them; don't know if it's the same over there) countries. Are Swedish people generally welcoming to newcomers or not? (And, yes, I know I'm generalizing; sorry.)


Yes, the nordic countries is a thing here too. We have a lot in common.

Generally, I think you will feel welcome. Swedes can be a bit reserved and tough to get to know, though. We don't talk with strangers on the bus, etc. Once you get to know us, though, we tend to be genuinely friendly. (Or so I'm told.)

There is some xenophobia, but the prejudice is mostly about arabs. I think if you are a caucasian/black american you will have a blast.


Thanks! I'm generally reserved until I get to know people as well. It's been my experience that most americans really don't fall into that loud/obnoxious/rude/belligerent stereotype that seems to be making the rounds (maybe not this generation's teenagers, though...).

Really, the thing that scares me the most about moving somewhere like sweden is learning the langage ;) I don't really have a gift for (human) languages, and swedish seems pretty tough already.


A hacker worrying about learning a new language? ;-)

There are courses in swedish offered to all immigrants. My wife did it in 4 months. Meanwhile, you won't have a problem getting around with english only. Virtually all swedes speak english, and most do it well.


I know haha. Give me a computer language and I'm good, but those pesky human languages... Who knows, maybe the problem is all in my head. Anyway, thanks so much for the info!


Seems to me like this is the double edged sword of consumer protection. I think Sweden has the right idea here but I can also see how someone starting a business might think that these consumer protection laws protect the existing players in an industry.

In America we have a lot of laws governing the hotel industry. For the most part I think they are in place to protect the millions of Americans and tourists who stay in hotels here every year. However, if I understand correctly, some of those laws have made it difficult for new businesses to enter the market.


On the flipside, sometimes it really makes new businesses think about the role they play in society. Just because Tom, Dick and Harry has money and wants to start a business, it doesn't mean that they can do whatever they like. There are bad apples looking to make a quick buck when they can. Of course, the good apples are the ones to suffer as well. It's a hard problem to solve. Should businesses be only about making money or should it also think about the services it's trying to provide and the role it plays in society? Sorry for the philosophical question :)


I may be a little cynical here but I think that businesses are amoral institutions by nature. They exist to generate a profit. That is why consumer protections have to be put in place by the government because businesses would not change a policy so long as it was continuing to generate a profit. It would be great if businesses considered the "social good", if you will, of their actions but I don't think that is realistic nor should it be expected.


Businesses are run by human beings, so while businesses themselves may be amoral, people making the decisions on direction of the business are not. Or at least one would hope that is the case. That isn't to say there is no place for regulation, but assuming without regulation business should be expected to run amuck is a bit cynical.


Terry Gross interviewed Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, on her show yesterday and he had what I thought was a great quote about morality. "People have great morality when they are observing other people." If you are making the decision you probably have a reason for thinking it is the right one and it will be hard to see that it was the wrong one. You will believe that you are justified in your actions. I think if you are a well paid executive at a company and you know your job is to increase shareholder value then it may be difficult to see what may be good for society if it is ultimately bad for business.

I went to school for finance and in my experience the social good of business decisions is rarely considered. What is considered is: Will this make a profit? Are we working within the law? I am fairly certain that, at least on Wall Street, businesses would totally run amok without regulation.


I think it's a great quote although a little sad about how true it is. I share your sentiment that many times the law is what keeps people in check. But as it is, we are humans and I think it is absolutely possible to at least ponder the thought of "social good".


Don't get me wrong. I definitely agree that it is possible. I just think that when running a business it happens too frequently that the decision makers are put in a position to have to make a choice that is not in support of social good. This is made more complicated by the fact that in many cases those people may be rewarded financially for making that choice.


You are most likely right. I have never been involved in any business that targets the consumer market, so I have little first hand knowledge, but I once had the misfortune to be involved in a project to design software to aid the government procurement process. There's a huge amount of laws there, which makes it darn near impossible to submit a tender, much less design a valid request for tenders. These laws are there to combat corruption (the point is that it should be virtually impossible to, as a government employee, simply award a government project to your brother in law if he really doesn't provide the best offer), but the amount of red tape involved turned out to be staggering. According to our expert source on the laws involved, it was in fact impossible to not break the law, as there were parts of it that were conflicting with itself.

That said - sorry for going on an off topic tangent - I think that over all the consumer protection laws have public support, and the possible downsides they come with w/r to establishing new actors in a market are outweighed by the benefits they have to consumer. But nothing is without its cost, you say.


>all groceries are mandated to list price per weight/volume/appropriate other unit so you can find out, say, which bag of rice is cheapest per kg, for instance - the same goes for taxi services and price per km

That's actually really interesting and I had no idea that was the case. In a supermarket, would such a list be in the isle next to the food? Or would it just be available from management or something like that?


I don't know about Sweden but here in Germany it's on the price labels that are attached to the shelves.

You have a price per unit. Say a 0.5l bottle of beer costs 0.78 EUR and then you have the price per 100ml or 1l below it (1l = 1.56 EUR). It's marginally useful if you compare the price of rice to the price of Coca Cola but it's really useful if you want to know what's cheaper: Buying a package of 6 1.5l bottles of Coke or buying a crate with 18 0.33l bottles.

I'm a sucker for saving pennies ;)


We do this in the US. However, not being standardized on the metric system, it can end up being pretty useless. It's usually good, but every so often you come across something like:

    Item A: $3, $6/pound
    Item B: $4, $0.30/oz
Which defeats the whole purpose of the per-unit price. Occasionally drives me bonkers.


It would normally be right next to the price of the item itself on the shelf (usu. in smaller font). Here are some examples I found via google images. [1] is an example of a tesco shelf label. [2] is an example of why having this extra info available is useful for consumers (and some of the bizzare tricks that consumers still fall for)

Here

[1] http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-i80uxvW1SnA/Tp3zocKih4I/AAAAAAAAAJ...

[2] http://www.freshfrom77.com/wp-content/uploads/tesco-multi-bu...


Not Sweden, but the UK (and Germany) have the same thing.

Usually, they just tell you on the shelf's price tag:

Bigger Font: 1.50€/£ Smaller Font: 0.75€/p per 100g/100ml etc.

That way, you can see that sometimes it makes sense to buy 2x 400ml ketchup (just as an example where I had it recently) instead of 1x 800ml, simply because 2x 400ml is actually cheaper.


It's all of the EU, this is mandated by EU directive 98/6/EC: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:...

> That way, you can see that sometimes it makes sense to buy 2x 400ml ketchup (just as an example where I had it recently) instead of 1x 800ml, simply because 2x 400ml is actually cheaper.

That applies to plenty of dastardly stuff too e.g. the big 3-5kg pots of Nutella you see around Christmas? The unit price is often twice that of the standard 750g pot.


No, you will have to compare the individual products yourself. But since products of the same type is usually on display close to each other, and the price is displayed in the same unit, it's not very hard. In practice, this means that most products have two prices listed - first, the actual price of the product, second the "comparison price", per standard unit. For example:

Brand A, Orange Juice, 1L. 19.90 (Price per Litre: 19.90) Brand B, Orange Juice, 2L. 30.00 (Price per Litre: 15.00)

This is simply to spare the consumer of doing the math themselves, which can turn out to be quite tricky in some cases (although not in my example:)


the small price on the rack sticker next to the big price is the price per unit. I have seen that in Connecticut, Vermont, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Norway. Actually pretty much every grocery store I have been to in my life.


In the EU it's also for cleaners (all liquids I assume) etc. not only food.


I live in Virginia and all the grocery stores here do the same thing. It is listed on the shelf tag next to the item price.

Update: According to NIST, 21 of the 54 US states and territories have some form of unit pricing law.


Here's Swedish taxi fare sticker for comparison: https://www.arlandaexpress.com/files/bilder%20integrerad%20s...


> In a supermarket, would such a list be in the isle next to the food? Or would it just be available from management or something like that?

It's on the price tag/label, there's the product price and the unit price (except bulk which only have unit prices).


I've seen this in the US, too. It's on the labels, typically listed in price per ounce/fluid ounce for smaller items. Maybe it's a local law (Los Angeles) because it's that way at every super market I go to.


All products need to have a clearly visible pricetag next to/on the product. So for food the information is on that pricetag next to the item.


Carrier subsidised phone ads usually state the minimum cost during the contract period.


> would such a list be in the isle [sic] next to the food?

Only if you swim between the isles. I believe you meant aisles.


Does Uber run these international operations or is it some kind of franchise?


I'm a Swede living in Stockholm and I have never ever heard of this company. I stopped reading right after this painful sentence:

The STA’s explanation for this is that the permit that is required should only be given to companies that drive members of royal families or prominent business leaders.


The following article might provide some insight into the company's response: http://pandodaily.com/2012/10/24/travis-shrugged/


The more I hear about Uber, the more it seems to be a tea-party style paranoid right-wing anti big evil government organization instead of a disruptive start-up.

This kind of thing might fly in the US, but in most of Western Europe we take a slightly more nuanced view to the role of government regulation.

Doesn't mean there isn't anything worth disrupting, hell no (somebody please disrupt the Amsterdam taxi market), but in cultures where simply sitting down and figuring out how to remove the obstacles is the custom, hyperbolic scream fests by an American company is not going to work.

Especially not an American company that thinks it's a good idea to conquer Europe with a name like "Uber"...

Both the company name and their PR strategy scream "culturally insensitive American douchebags".


So, part of the problem is that in the US, not only would such things fly, but they have been on the receiving end of some suspect pressure and investigations. Most of the taxi systems in Uber's homeland are highly regulated and effectively run by strong lobbying organizations who are very vocal about their concerns and distaste for having their business threatened. In the US, such allegations are not only reasonable, but they're not even really a sign of corruption - typically, the people who get their way are the people who ask the loudest and most frequently, and that doesn't mean that anyone is acting in an unsavory manner.

This isn't to say that there isn't a twinge of tinfoil hattery going on, or to say that the same tactic is appropriate here, but the fact is that they've had tremendous success asking their users to tell the authorities that they're good guys in the past - they had success in this endeavor here, for that matter. The fact that there is a blog post calling them out doesn't really seem to have had a strong impact on the support that their users are giving them.

Moreover, this blog post smacks of tinfoil hattery - is the suggestion that, by not signaling itself as a taxi, Uber is attempting to confuse users? To my knowledge, they're not picking people up on the street - only people who have signed up for an account and are well aware of the price differences. It seems likely that they're less interested in removing the need for the meter and more interested in removing the need for external signals that the car is fared similarly to a taxi - which is, after all, 50% of what they're offering. So a yellow license plate, sign, and fare sticker might have the larger impact in their eyes.

Based on that, do you not think that it's reasonable that, in an, "unregulated," market, they should be allowed to charge people who have jumped through the hoops to actually get into an Uber car, with all of the fare information shoved in their faces a number of times, however they have agreed upon with their customers?

I'm playing devil's advocate here, but let's please be intellectually honest.


They only thing they (or their subcontractors) have done to date is apply for an exemption which they weren't covered by and then complain about it. If they include the proper information in their app and get it certified as a meter than they might have a case. Now they just come of as spoiled and childish.

Also a sign isn't required and the yellow plate gives you advantages in traffic (bus lanes etc.), but they'll probably want an exemption from that too?


I think it's pretty clear that the email that was sent out was not written in the way that it should have been, and that they may have misjudged both the source of the friction they are encountering and the public sentiment about such regulations.

We're sort of arguing past eachother on the other point. If we agree that Uber isn't out to rip people off and their customers like the way that they do business, why should they need to change? If you acknowledge that the changes required are superficial, why are they required?

And based on the way in which Uber is marketed, you're either completely unfamiliar with the service or you're being more than a little disingenuous when you suggest that a yellow license plate wouldn't affect their business. Part of what they offer is the appearance at your destination of having been delivered by a private driver.


They didn't argue that they complied with regulations, they applied for an exemption, see the difference? If they want to charge a non-fixed price I think they should have to show the price for comparison and during the trip. With an exemption they wouldn't have to do that at all.

I might not know their marketing, but you don't know the market in Stockholm so maybe you should be a little less cocky about it.

Sometimes regulation gets in the way of innovation, but this time it seems like regulation only gets in the way because they can't be bothered to innovate. Getting their app certified as a meter would be a nice precedent for more innovation.


I'm not trying to be cocky about anything. I'm not saying that Stockholm is a good market for Uber. I don't know shit about what's happening here beyond what this post has written. What I do know is that all of the arguments for making them make changes has been one of the following:

1) It's just the way that things are done. Everyone else plays by these rules, so deal with it.

2) Uber is not doing enough to inform their customers about their pricing structure.

I assert that the first argument is extremely weak as a position. If you can't defend the rules themselves, then don't bother. The fact that exemptions are granted indicates that it's understood that organizations should be able to bend these rules if they meet certain requirements. What are those requirements? Why does Uber not meet those requirements? Why are those requirements as they are? Do they not meet the spirit of those requirements?

As for number 2, look, pricing is all over everything. You can talk about ways in which they could technically comply, but I think you're sort of assuming ignorance on the part of the consumers that doesn't exist. You can go to a website, or pull out your phone, and see a price.


why should they need to change? If you acknowledge that the changes required are superficial, why are they required?

If they're superficial, why can't Uber just play ball? I can't disconnect my electricity meter and install a more accurate one of my choosing, even if that leads to me paying more in utilities. Some things are standard just because it makes it easier for people to tell that nobody's breaking the rules.


Because these superficial changes are part of the package that they're selling. They've got charters (or whatever) in cities all over the world and their first product was a livery without the scheduling nonsense and with a pretty reasonable price. Telling them that the thing that they want to sell is against regulations is fine, but saying that those regulations exist strictly to protect against bad actors and that exemptions are granted for everyone else is the same as saying that you think that they are bad actors. And in that case, asking people to sign a petition saying that they're not is completely reasonable.


Part of what they offer is the appearance at your destination of having been delivered by a private driver.

Uber X and Uber Taxi are just Priuses and regular taxis.


I'm not sure what you're driving at. Visit their website. See where the only words on the page are, "Everyone's Private Driver™"? I think it's pretty clear what they're selling.

And in the case of Uber Taxi, they comply with all legal requirements for a Taxi service.


I use Uber all the time. Regardless of marketing slogan, most people in SF use it like they would a car service or taxi. It's not like the private cars are Bentleys, although that might be a cool option.


> Part of what they offer is the appearance at your destination of having been delivered by a private driver.

Honest question: why would anyone care about that at all?


I don't know, but it's completely irrelevant. I don't understand why people care about the color of their hair enough to dye it, but it seems to matter to some people, and if it matters to people that matter to you, then I guess it matters to you as well.


Far from it. Uber is a remarkably professionally run company that has transformed transportation in the US cities where it operates.

I'm surprised (or more precisely, dismayed) that a comment with such comically excessive language received so many upvotes. This is how a forum turns into a self-caricature.


It seems purpose built to garner upvotes from many of those who frequent HN - insults the American right wing while praising European level-headedness and rationalism. Add in a final parting shot at American stereotypes and I'm not surprised at all I found it at the top.


> remarkably professionally run company

That may be true, you certainly would know better than most here, but the press about them and statements from Mr. Kalanick really don't give that impression.


I wish I was surprised. Frankly, I've come to expect that type of reaction to anything that challenges the establishment.


If the devil didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent him. Uber was built from the ground up to tangle with cantankerous and corrupt authorities whose first impulse is to outlaw it. Even if that enemy turns out not to exist, they operate as if it does. Its their nature.


Uber was built from the ground up to make money.

Everything else is PR.


That's certainly true but it's how they were built to make money that's important here. If I ask what the case of the new MacBook is made of and you reply "atoms", it's true enough but it isn't exactly useful.


How? They have created an app connecting two market participants that before were not connected.


Your entirely uninformed comments which you make without providing an ounce of information backing your claim is what is useless. This whole thread is ridiculous. Has anyone upvoting these comments ever used Uber and do they understand how it works and it's niche within the industry? Because I see a lot of hyperbole and about zero facts.


> a tea-party style paranoid right-wing anti big evil government organization

...

> we take a slightly more nuanced view

Yeah, sure sounds like it.


> ...to the role of government regulation.

What did he write that conflicts with this?


"tea-party style paranoid right-wing anti big evil government organization". ...is hardly nuanced parlance.


Perhaps not, but the context is that this dialogue is a response to Uber's response to the situation in Sweden, which is at best jarringly strident in tone.

Dialogue that doesn't /start/ nuanced rarely becomes so half way through...


It's a legitimate business, and they've generally been a bit smoother than this hacktastic email.

It just so happens that they're entering a regulated market, and some observers will go full tea-party upon hearing things like "we have extra regulation applying to taxi services due to some experiences we've had over the last hundred years."

Better dispatch over the internet doesn't change everything.

This email reminds me of talking to some idiot soda lobbyist at a cocktail party in 2009, telling me she doesn't understand why her boss told her equating taxes on soda with fascism was a bad idea.


Can we please stop using "tea-party" as a derogatory term? Not only is it needlessly offensive (and I'm not even a member of the tea-party), it doesn't even make sense. Since when did "strict adherence to the United States Constitution" and "reducing U.S. government spending and taxes" (see Wikipedia) mean "retarded" (as in, "full retard", as in where you got the "full XYZ" template)?


> some observers

It's the company itself which did that, not "observers".


I can't be the only person who utilizes Uber/Sidecar/etc and shuns deregulationism, can I?

The problem in many of these situations is the nebulous definition of "taxi", "towncar", and other conveyances, along with the protectionistic (for self-preservation) industry. If the definitions had anything to do with consumer safety/protection, I'd be opposing Uber as well.

Are there any cities in the US and abroad who have handled the Uber problem by updating their regulations in a more harmonious manner? I'm aware of those who have tried to ban Uber's loopholes outright, but I'm curious how any may have integrated these services while eliminating perceived exploitative aspects of their business model.


"hyperbolic scream fests"

Hyperbolic, you say?

"tea-party style paranoid right-wing anti big evil government organization" "culturally insensitive American douchebags"

Also, thanks US government. Because of you, this is what the rest of the world thinks of us.



regarding the first link, in which Uber jumped fares during Hurricane Sandy - People who think price gouging have obviously never given the consequences more than a moments thought. He even mentioned that Uber reported the supply of drivers went up 50%. Isn't that a major, important factor. The author just blows it off and calls the Uber evil. fuck that. I'd rather know that a service is going to be available, but at a higher price than to not have the service available at all. Supply and demand is economic law, bitches.

Price "gouging" is actually a public service, it LITERALLY SAVES LIVES. It ensures that needed materials find their way to the people that need them the most. If I'm reasonably well stocked on batteries, and a business isn't allowed to raise prices during a hurricane, I have no dis-incentive from clearing off the shelf and buying all of them. However if the prices get jacked up, I won't buy them if I don't need them. It also provides an incentive and encourages people to be well prepared.

http://mises.org/daily/1593/Price-Gouging-Saves-Lives-in-a-H...


Price "gouging" is actually a public service, it LITERALLY SAVES LIVES. It ensures that needed materials find their way to the people that need them the most.

Seriously? The lower income people living on Staten Island during Sandy would like a word with you. Price gouging ensures that things are only available to people with excess income to absorb the gouged price.

The whole point about price gouging during Sandy is that it was an exceptional event, and maybe not one we should leave to market forces. If every grocery store tripled the price of bottled water and essential supplies then many people would be unable to afford them and starve. How is that a good thing?


If every store tripled the price of bottled water you would have truckloads of water arriving within 24 hours with absolutely no government intervention at all.

It would also mean that smart entrepreneurs would pre-stage needed supplies in anticipation of the price increase. With strong 'gouging' laws, there is no incentive to spend money on preparing the supply chain or in spending more money to overcome supply difficulties (i.e diverting supplies from elsewhere, rushing delivery, etc)

Price 'gouging' contains the seed of its own destruction because it encourages over-supply and subsequently lower prices.


> If every store tripled the price of bottled water you would have truckloads of water arriving within 24 hours with absolutely no government intervention at all.

In natural disaster scenarios, this is likely impossible as delivery infrastructure usually goes down for some period of time. This is why price gouging is successful for the businesses raising prices in first place.

> It would also mean that smart entrepreneurs would pre-stage needed supplies in anticipation of the price increase.

Businesses do not do a good job of stockpiling resources for exceptional events that happen once in many years and many businesses view this as a cost that is not worth paying.

> With strong 'gouging' laws, there is no incentive to spend money on preparing the supply chain or in spending more money to overcome supply difficulties (i.e diverting supplies from elsewhere, rushing delivery, etc)

There is no incentive in general since there is an very low probability that work on on delivery and supply channels will actually pay off as it is a low probability that a disaster scenario will happen in the first place.

> With strong 'gouging' laws, there is no incentive to spend money on preparing the supply chain or in spending more money to overcome supply difficulties (i.e diverting supplies from elsewhere, rushing delivery, etc)

Most historical examples of price gouging never worked out this way. On a logic basis, this doesn't make sense as the point of price gouging is to maximize revenue from sale during a short window of time while new supplies and materials cannot make it to the area where you are selling the now highly priced goods.


The utility of 'price' (whether it involves "gouging" or not) is to signal the entire marketplace regarding the current state of supply vs. demand. The market is dynamic and responds to the signal.

If you attempt to legislate the rules regarding price you are making it illegal to respond to the signal. This just leads to oversupply and legally enforced profit (the price is too high) or shortages and legislative enforced queues and delays (the price is too low).


> The market is dynamic and responds to the signal.

W.r.t to price gouging, this is the thing that doesn't happen or doesn't happen quickly enough and means people who can't afford the new high price go without. For essentials like food, water, batteries in a no power situation, etc. that is a huge problem.


How 'quickly' is not quick enough for you? Companies like Walmart and Home Depot are getting pretty darn good at responding to disasters, especially for things like hurricanes where there is considerable lead time.

Smaller events like tornados are much easier to respond to because they are localized.

Price gouging laws negate any sort of systemic planning to take advantage of short-term price spikes. Eliminate the laws and you open up opportunities for creative businesses to plan and respond to these short-term opportunities.


If every store tripled the price of bottled water you would have truckloads of water arriving within 24 hours with absolutely no government intervention at all

In post hurricane road conditions? You don't live in New York, do you?

If the price of water tripled, a decent section of the population would struggle to afford it. That is the start and end of that debate, as far as I am concerned. I believe in the free market up until it starts starving people.


You are viewing this as a static situation (i.e. the price will stay high) and ignoring other ways for people in need to be assisted. Ensuring a shortage (by limiting price) isn't helpful.

Let the price float as needed and if you feel like some people are being priced out of the market, give them cash for them to spend as needed. Some people will need water. Other people will need food. Some folks will have both and instead will spend the money on gas for their generator.

Emergency cash assistance is a much better way to assist those in need and ensure that the market will rapidly adjust to provide resources in the right quantity and right location (due the the pricing signals).


> If every store tripled the price of bottled water you would have truckloads of water arriving within 24 hours with absolutely no government intervention at all

You mean "According to my preferred economic ideology if every store tripled the price of bottled water you should have ...", because it's fairly easy to check the historical records and see that this is definitely not what actually happens.

But by all means, don't let facts get in the way of your faith.


Really? There is no historical record of the market responding to increased prices?

You are either trolling or economically ignorant.


I know it was 4 hours ago but did you forget that we're talking about "price gouging" during disasters or some other event that disrupts normal supply lines?


What are you talking about?

Disrupted supply lines mean higher cost to deliver materials (longer routes, special equipment, etc). Higher prices encourages suppliers to expend the extra $$$ to deliver the goods. Or even new suppliers to enter the market (for example think about construction workers or tree removal companies in the wake of a large storm traveling to where the work is).

If the price can't change (legally) then suppliers will simply ignore the problem until conditions return to 'normal' thus ensuring shortages.


You: Really? There is no historical record of the market responding to increased prices?

Me: we're talking about "price gouging" during disasters or some other event that disrupts normal supply lines

Seems pretty clear what I was talking about. Your hypothesis about price gouging during emergencies doesn't have historical evidence.

I understand perfectly why you think it should work that way according to your ideology. I was pointing out that, in these circumstances, it doesn't match up with the data.

Plenty of other commenters, with knowledge of inventory logistics, have explained why.


It is either Higher Prices, or ZERO availability. I'll opt for the former.


Why do you assume that? During Sandy there was plenty of water to go around, and supplies were delivered. There was availability. Maybe if some asshole bought all the supplies available in a store then there might a be a problem, but guess what- no-one did.

If that situation had persisted it would actually be one of the rare situations where rationing makes sense- and that rationing would logically be controlled by the government. Which makes all the free market Rand-ians foam at the mouth- despite the fact that it makes sense.


Look Untog, on the one hand, we have what you saw with your own eyes.

On the other hand, I just finished my freshman year in economics, and when we draw a dotted line across the X of supply/demand, then there's this little triangle see? Shade it in. Yeah. So anyways that's what happened. BTW, there's no axis for "natural disaster" on my graph so clearly that's irrelevant. I don't know why you're bringing up red herrings.


Highly demanded products do sell out during natural disasters, and it does cause shortages. In reality, not theory.


Yes, of course, but it does not follow that those products are being optimally allocated by price like a normal economy. Normal economies adjust to produce more, natural disaster is a temporary state with different rules.

It becomes a public policy issue (we have too few and how to apportion in the short term) rather than an economic issue.


Rationing by the government makes randians "foam at the mouth" because as the government has proven over and over again, it is inept at thinking about every possible scenario that could exist, and rigid rules often fail to take into account a situation in which the best social good may be free market prices. Say there is a 2 gallon every two days ration. Now, if someone has their huge suv and uses it only to drive back and forth once a day between their house and school a mile a way but has an empty tank when the hurricane hit, under the ration they would be entitled to a lot of gas that they do not need. However, a private delivery business owner who makes all of his deliveries in his own car may use a tank a day, but now can only use a gallon a day. The deliveryman may be willing to pay a x% premium to make his deliveries, while the suv owner would not. People are going to be screwed in either case: either no gas available or cannot afford it. But people should at least be allowed to make the decision of whether or not to buy expensive gas.


If there was plenty of water and supplies were delivered, then there would be no incentive for the price increase and no need to have a law about it.

During Sandy, much of the price 'gouging' discussion was regarding gas supplies. The effect of price gouging laws was that people who had time waited in line and then sold their tank of gas on the secondary market where the price gouging law was not followed.

It is really hard to make the laws of supply and demand obey legislative commands.


> It is either Higher Prices, or ZERO availability. I'll opt for the former.

Where did you get that stark either-or proposition from?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma


"He even mentioned that Uber reported the supply of drivers went up 50%. Isn't that a major, important factor. The author just blows it off and calls the Uber evil."

I think people either don't realize, or at least haven't properly internalized, the fact that Uber doesn't employ drivers directly, but just connects drivers and riders and manages payment.

If Uber employed drivers directly, then complaining about high fares during a hurricane would make sense. It would be reasonable to say that they should just keep fares the same, put a lot of drivers out there, and maybe take a loss for the good of the community. I don't know if I'd be comfortable saying that they should, but I can understand the point of view, at least.

But with Uber simply acting as an intermediary, they have no direct control over drivers. If they want more drivers out there, they need to offer an incentive.


No it means that the resources will go the ones that have the means to pay the most. Those are not always the ones that need it most. There is reason why there was rationing during WW2.


So the rich "need" transportation to safety more than poor people. Got it.


I find it odd that Uber is constantly fighting various countries' laws to be considered "a taxi service, but not a taxi service", when they could just change their business model a tiny bit and fall straight into the middle of the "limousine service" classification.

Why not charge just-time instead of time+distance? Would it screw over the drivers?


Sometimes it would screw over the drivers, sometimes the customers, and depending on how it was priced you could force that to one side or the other.

Distance + time is the most fair solution, as if there's no traffic and you get there super fast the driver still gets a fair fee (unlike if it was time only), if there's lots of traffic and it takes ages to get there then the customer doesn't have to pay a huge fee (like if it was time only).

Personally I'd never use a taxi service that charged only by time. I'm OK with time+distance, or with distance only (which is also used in some places).


> Personally I'd never use a taxi service that charged only by time.

That's why most taxi services are not time-only, but limo services are (you're going to rent a limo for an evening, but you'll barely drive it)


It's worth noting that with Uber's current price structure, if you get there super fast the fee is small, and if it takes ages it's huge. So it sounds more like worst of both worlds.


That's the way most taxi services work - if it takes longer you pay more because the driver is spending more time getting you there, however it's not as bad as if the price was just time and not distance.


Yeah - just saying that if the goal is to have a function that's medium for both high and low speeds, m+s is not it.

It definitely makes sense to pay more for longer distances, but I for one do not want to pay extra for slower travel. Something like m-s or m+s^-1 would be better.


Of course you don't want to pay more for a slower trip, but taxi drivers don't want to have their hourly profit reduced by being stuck in traffic.

At the end of the day, they could reduce the time cost so that going slower doesn't cost more, but they'd have to also raise the distance cost, so that drivers (and taxi companies) still make the same amount of money on average.

But combining them, the way it works now, makes the most sense, as when you use a taxi service you are paying for the technical costs of getting somewhere (fuel, etc.) and the cost of your driver's time, so why shouldn't it be calculated that way.


I'm not paying for the driver's time - the taxi company is responsible for that. I want a transport that takes me from point A to point B in the shortest time possible, and paying for the driver's time (at a higher rate, no less) is actively against my interests, since it disincentivizes speed.

You could make the argument that chauffeurs are paid for on a time-only basis, but then we're talking about a driver who I can tell to wait for me outside the store or party, a driver who can tell me about the sights on the scenic route we're taking, or a driver who will take me all over the county on business. Then you could add a basic wear or fuel surcharge per m, but again it should be decreasing (and small).

I haven't used chauffeur services myself, but a quote I found charges less per hour than Uber and nothing per km and no starting charge. They do have higher minimums, though. So I guess Uber could be presenting themselves as a chauffeur company for shopping trips, with 50%-150% markups when moving. As the article points out, they've failed to make that case.


> I'm not paying for the driver's time

Of course you are - whether you do so directly or through a company is irrelevant, either way the driver needs to get paid.

They could change it so that you don't pay more for slow trips, but in return fast trips would become more expensive to even it out, otherwise all you're doing is taking money away from the company/drivers. Then people who travel at peak traffic times are being subsidized by those who travel when the roads are empty.

(Personally I actually prefer non-metered trips, where I know that A to B always costs £x regardless of traffic, but there's certainly a lot of logic in charging by both distance and time.)


Maybe they saw the manufactured outrage as a good PR opportunity.

That only lasts so long, until people get tired of it and start looking into the details, of course.


This definitely seems to have been Uber's tactic since the day they launched. In SF it worked because the taxi industry is an unholy mess, but that isn't replicable everywhere.


Exactly, they have to obey the law of the land. If the limousines in Sweden are supposed to charge by time, then do that. Change your app to charge by time in that particular country.


It's not really about limo v not limo, it's really the other way around: you can charge either for time only or for time + distance, if you charge for time + distance you need a tamper-proof meter.

Time-based is mostly used by limousine services and time+distance for "regular" taxis for obvious reasons (a limo tends to be rented for a long time but not to move far, the opposite is true of regular taxis) but nothing prevents a limo service from charging for time+distance (besides looking cheap) and nothing prevents "regular" cabs from charging for time only.


Why not work to change the law since it doesn't make sense? What's the point of keeping it?


As far as I can tell (and I'm not an expert in swedish taxi law) what the law says is you can charge by time (as a limousine), or by time+distance (as a taxi), and if you charge by time+distance you must use a certified tamper-proof taxi meter and have a price sticker in your window.

Which of these laws do you consider not to make sense?


The certified tamper-proof meter... and the sticker in the window. You're using an app to arrange transport. All of the information you need is there.


They have not, however, made any attempt to get the app approved to serve that function.


Not necessary ... it's MY app. The problem with not having approved and sealed meters is that I don't know if you've screwed with it or not. I know driver hasn't screwed with my iPhone app.


It's not your app. It's Ubers app, installed on your phone.

How do you know Uber hasn't screwed with your app? And how does the driver know that you are not screwing him with a tampered app?

It's not only you and the driver that need mutual trust either, the tax administration also has to trust the app.


Which is a great argument to make, but you still have to make the argument. As I understand it, they have not attempted to do so.


I think a good enhancement of the law would be an exception for charging by distance without a legacy meter, if the price and distance was quoted and agreed in advance and the client has means to compare the offer before accepting it (which they should, if they are using a smartphone)


I was on Uber's side for a long time initially. But with what's have been going on in the past few months, I am more than willing to believe the author. Especially after that protest by some drivers, outside their office in SF. "It was only a handful of drivers", you might argue. But the fact that none of the company officials came down to listen to them, just points out their "we don't give a fuck" attitude. And it is this arrogance, that brings down corporates and even empires.


I don't think their failure to attend the protest was necessarily "we don't give a fuck." If only for self preservation reasons they almost certainly do care. They likely didn't attend because they didn't want to increase the likelihood of the protest becoming a larger story on the media. They're much better off only engaging drivers in private meetings.


Having been part of student protests in the past, I believe this is one of the worst ways to handle a protest.


I agree that it's imperfect, but what's the alternative? How would you envisage that alternative playing out for each of the parties?


this approach has worked well for uber in the usa. wonder if they've made a mistake by assuming that anti-govt sentiment in other countries is similar? or by simply copying the technique without thinking?

but this is from a single english-language post. what is the rest of the local reaction like? [ah, see reply below - i missed "response was huge" (in the sense of support for uber)]


I'm a local. This is the first time I've heard of Uber, so in a sense the PR has worked.

Looking at the 20 or so comments (in Swedish) below Uber's original press release/blog entry (http://blog.uber.com/2013/04/25/transportstyrelsen-forsoker-...), they're almost all opposed to part or all of Uber's post.

The biggest non-tabloid newspaper, DN, hasn't mentioned Uber at all. The next biggest, SvD, hasn't mentioned the current spat, but had an interview (a month ago) with Simon Breakwell from Uber. Choice quote:

Reporter: You've encountered resistance from taxi companies in some cities.

Simon: Right, but that's mostly in the USA. Before we enter a new market, we conduct a thorough investigation into the local rules and regulations to avoid nasty surprises. We've never encountered resistance based on Uber itself being illegal.

(Source: http://www.svd.se/naringsliv/branscher/handel-och-tjanster/h... I translated it by hand.)


I know for a fact that Uber has encountered resistance in Paris for not complying with local transportation-for-hire laws.


I suspect the angle of an Ayn-Rand-quoting American who sees himself as Galt won't play quite as well in Sweden, either...


There are strong libertarian strands in several swedish parties so there are some comrades in arms. Quoting Ayn Rand in parliament has happened.

But even as a libertarian leaning swede I find myself quite annoyed by Uber. In the 1990s, IIRC, the taxi market was striktly regulated and finding taxis where a problem. Now in Stockholm there are many, many taxis all over the place so I personally don't get what problem Uber is really trying to solve here.


The problem of how to cash higher in an IPO and be hailed by the media as the next next Zuckebergs.


What I find funny - and I like a lot of Rand, though I've understood the books completely different as most Americans - is that many of the Americans that quote and evangelize Rand would be "parasites" in a Galt world, e.g. all the Republican politicians who never produced or created anything in the Galt sense and are paid by the state.


Let's be honest with ourselves. There are plenty of Democratic politicians who, also, have never produced anything and are paid by the state.


That's besides the point because you don't see Democratic politicians promoting the Ayn Rand philosophy, unlike a large number of Republicans.


Yes, and this is in which way relevant to the point?


The mistake was not researching local laws before entering a new market. It has nothing to do with anti-govt sentiment.


The mistake(s) : Not researching local laws, not co-operating with govt when they come to know about the laws, and then not following a proper channel of communication if they thought its a dispute.


Why do you assume they didn't know the local laws?


TFA notes

> The response was pretty huge. What surprised me was that people who are bright and often critical of sources jumped on the wagon without asking obvious questions:

Since the original Uber post was in swedish and targeted at swedes, I expect it was local reaction.


Just based on this blog post it appears to have done well. He (?) starts off discussing that people seem to have believed and rallied around the Uber story without applying any critical thinking. So I'm guessing it did resonate.


So what exactly is their model?

I found it hard to figure out from their website how they differ from any other taxi service with online ordering and payment.

Also, if there are rules in Sweden about meters and price displays, there's probably a consumer-focussed reason for them.


In the U.S., one difference is that they have more convenient and reliable dispatch than regular taxis, focused on virtually "hailing" a nearby car through their mobile app, rather than the two traditional options of: 1) trying to flag down a taxi on the street, or 2) booking one over the phone or internet and then waiting for it to come.

I think that's less novel in Sweden, though. Taxi apps are already common, and "virtual hailing" is how most younger people already hail taxis. In addition, there are a number of taxi companies, each of which can set their own prices and position themselves in different market niches, so you can choose one you like. In that market, Über may just be another taxi company with an app, and not have enough differentiation: http://www.thelocal.se/blogs/bostonblatte/2013/04/26/stockho...

Starting in SF probably helped them, too: SF's taxi system is worse than most.


I've wondered that myself for a while - I guess there are problems with the market for taxis in the US but that level of service has been available here for a long time.


I don't understand it. Why the constant drama around their every (lack of) license? Can't they just obtain ones just like the rest of driver services or do the authorities owe them something?


Livences often cost a lot of money. Enough that buying one can easily make there model unprofitable in many areas.

Ex: In NYC there worth 750,000+ USD at 4% thasts 30,000 dollars plus added per taxi every year.


"do the same as the competition but illegally so it's cheaper" as a business model is just begging for trouble.

around here we have discount taxi-but-not-a-taxi who manage to skip the regulations, yeah, they're cheap, but it's not like they don't generate a lot of controversies. and it's not like one of them after 30hrs of driving without sleep didn't crash into my gf's car on the parking lot and fainted. transport regulations have their faults, but they are invented for a reason.


In Sweden anybody can get a taxi license by passing a written and practical test and filing some paperwork. The whole processes costs less than $1000. To actually operate a taxi company you also need insurance and to meet certain capital requirements, but it's nothing that any serious company should have any problem meeting.


> Why the constant drama around their every (lack of) license?

I don't know about Sweden, but here in Germany licenses are limited, i.e. there is no infinite amount of taxi license per city.


Sweden deregulated its taxis in 1990. There is now no limit on the number of taxis (though drivers do have to pass an exam), and no restrictions on what they can charge. The deregulation did produce a big uptick in the # of taxis in Stockholm.

There are now some complaints in the other direction about the deregulated prices, especially because some less scrupulous drivers are trying to deliberately trick tourists into paying outrageous prices. Prices have to be posted in windows, so of course no Swede or tourist paying attention would take a taxi that charges $200 for what would normally be a $20 trip. But you only have to trick a handful per day to make it a profitable scam. Just need to get some tourists who either don't realize that rates are unregulated in Stockholm, who didn't see the rate sticker, or who did but didn't mentally convert the SEK to something they understand.

A bit on that: http://www.thelocal.se/16868/20090112/


No limits on taxis as such in Sweden, there used to be but not anymore. However, you need to be licensed as a taxi company/driver and provide certain details on the cab, like price comparisons etc.


in Poland we have a similar situation, but it's just a problem of increasing (or lifting) the cap, not deregulating everything.


What a odd pricing model. 50 SEK + 175 SEK/10 km at moderate speeds, with a jump discontinuity to 50 SEK + 600 SEK/10 km and above at low speeds - such as traffic lights.

Taxi Stockholm charges 45 SEK + 246-280 SEK/10 km, which looks like more, but it's hard to compare without knowing how much of the time is spent at low speeds. Taking the pessimal estimate of 15 minutes in a standstill to charge the hyperdrive, followed by a 10 kilometer spurt at lightspeed, we get an upper bound of 50 SEK + 445 SEK/10 km, or 165% of the article's index fare. I honestly can't tell if that's competitive.

I imagine that's why they don't want to make a sticker.

Oh, and then there's the much higher fixed price for city center travel. I trust that doesn't get added on to a trip that crosses the boundary.


Uber loves operating by "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" proverb. But what they fail to realize or discount its importance is that the squeaky wheel is also the first one to be replaced.


>>Also, they finally answered my question about how many cars they have in Stockholm by saying “Like all companies we have numbers we don’t give out”.

And unlike other companies our press releases are written by children.


Fixed: >> And unlike other companies our press releases are written by pubescent teenagers.


Taxis tend to be locally regulated. Regulations are good and bad. In some places, they ended up with plainly stupid rules. In some places the are about protecting drivers' revenues. But, they also protect consumers. IE, some of these regulations are not net bad, even if they are inconvenient or have some bad side effects.

Even good regulation creates inflexibility. It's just a cost. It takes into account the way things are now and makes it difficult to allow new business models to develop. It makes it difficult for companies to operate in multiple regulatory regions. They can lock in revenue streams and/or profit margins for companies, drivers or taxmen.

Uber's a new player threatening income streams. That will rattle cages. But they are also a global company and an innovative^ one. Being innovative means they clash with existing rules and policies by not fitting into existing classifications. Being multi-regional means they have a hard time being flexible themselves. They want to be able to drop in their system in every city they operate in.

They want to represent themselves as on a collision course with bad/corrupt regulation. But, they are really on an unavoidable collision course with all taxi regulators everywhere.


> But they are also [...] an innovative [company].

Not really, at least not as far as Stockholm is concerned. Unless by "innovative" you mean that they innovate in their ignorance and refusal to comply with regulations not matter how sensible those are (or, according to TFAA, how people attempt to help them: it was noted they could get their application certified as a meter and people have come forward to help with that, it would seem uber didn't even try doing that).


Innovative, in this context, means they are doing things in a way that was not previously done. IE, you use you mobile phone to order the taxi or pay. The current system is built around (presumably) people calling or waving & paying with cash or CC.


> IE, you use you mobile phone to order the taxi or pay.

Except you already did that in Stockholm, at least for the ordering part (not sure about payment).


If you read other comments in this thread by swedish people, they tell that other companies already do that.


"... such a qualitative, safe and modern mode of transportation should be available for everyone"

This is such a BS. Stockholm is one of the best capital city to live in, and one of the reasons is that the car traffic has the lowest priority there. You actually need to pay to enter the city centre by car, which I would consider much more modern approach than giving everyone an easy way to drive a limo.


Some quotes from the article:

"The market is unregulated, meaning that you can set any price for your services."

"You can safely say that there’s healthy competition on the market."

"You do need a permit to have a taxi service."

"The fact is that Uber are asking for an exemption to be able to compete on unfair grounds"

Notice some contradictions here?

Author claims that market is unregulated and competition is fair, but then admits there is regulation and legal requirements (that cost real money). If you want to make a nice private taxi service with 2x lower prices, you cannot because you have to pay local government for all licenses and whatever taximeter they provide you, not the one you design for your own company and your customers' safety.

When talking about "unfair advantage", author makes presupposition that existing regulations and licensing are "fair". Well, that needs to be proven. Saying "somebody voted for it in a democracy" is not a proof, sorry. Try that with a scientific study: "scientists voted that P != NP with 58% majority".


"Unregulated" in the terms of a taxi market means that there are no price regulations and no limitations on the number of cars.

The licenses needed are minimal compared to any other taxi market:

* Driver's need a more stringent driver's license ($150)

* Business owners need to prove they're running a serious business by passing a test and showing proof of enough capital to run the business. This application required an administrative fee of under $500. This is absolutely nothing compared to the 10's or 100's of thousands of dollars needed in other countries (where it's often impossible since their numbers are limited).

These requirements stem from the dangers of unprofessional drivers - unregulated taxi drivers in Sweden have been linked to robberies and rape of passengers. It doesn't in any way create a taxi monopoly. My mom could start a taxi business in Sweden.

The regulation is mainly pure consumer protection. The same kind of regulation that covers supermarkets: approved measurement devices (approved taximeter, same requirement as approved weights), upfront about prices (sticker on the window, same as having proper pricing on your shelves).


>whatever taximeter they provide you

The author mentions that Uber could have tried to get their App approved as a taximeter, but they did not even try.

> Author claims that market is unregulated and competition is fair, but then admits there is regulation

Getting a license is not a "regulation". What the author means is, that the prices are not regulated and the taxis are free to charge whatever they want. So Uber can offer their service at any price, without being forced to a minimum or a maximum.


> you cannot because you have to pay local government for all licenses and whatever taximeter they provide you, not the one you design for your own company and your customers' safety.

The reason you can't provide a service with 2x lower prices is that you would make a huge loss doing that, and it has nothing to do with regulations.

You are allowed to design your own taximeters btw.

And the regulation is "fair" in the sense that it applies equally to all companies (note that Uber is trying to get exepmtion from a rule that their competitors comply with).


The market is unregulated in that each driver is free to set their price, as compared to other places where there is a fixed, state-mandated price per kilometer.

The fact that you need a permit does not constitute regulation in any sensible sense (unless you call everything regulation), since you need a permit for basically everything.

The fact that you need a certified taximeter is customer protection – given that Uber charges per kilometer and time unit, I don’t see why they oppose a certified taximeter.

Similarly, you cannot make a nice private business selling X, because you have to pay income tax and VAT.


If the country is sweden and the company is american. Default value would be "laws are fair and company has some issues"


I don't know about Stockholm, but in US and France taxi drivers must buy a taxi license for many thousands of dollars/euros that effectively allows them be a part of a monopoly. The price for the license is market-defined because there is a limited number of licenses and few restrictions on trading them. But the interesting point is that licenses were initially created many years ago by some taxi mafia and lobbied to be enforced by police.

Now, put aside "fairness" issues, just imagine if someone comes up with Uber or similar service to work around these licensing requirements. And at the same time provides superior service. They will be able to ask lower prices, which will endanger every taxi driver who's invested already to be a part of a monopoly.

Now imagine that something like Uber moves to bitcoins and become almost anonymous. You won't be able to shutdown the central organisation - it's outside the country and has no bank account. You'll have to fight with individual "illegal" taxi drivers that use the system. But how would you prove that they get paid? There are no credit cards or cash. The person who gets in the car only tells the driver a short pin code to authenticate himself. Or says nothing at all. The driver just gives a friendly lift.

Suddenly no one needs taxis and every taxi driver has lost tens of thousands of dollars invested in his license and can do nothing about it. Customers win, other drivers win, mafia loses. Is it fair? Is in unfair? If you cannot avoid this outcome, does it really matter?


> I don't know about Stockholm, but in US and France taxi drivers must buy a taxi license for many thousands of dollars/euros that effectively allows them be a part of a monopoly

In Sweden there is no such thing, that's why the post says it's deregulated. All you need as a driver is a special driver's license (~$150) and what you need as a taxi business owner is proof of financial stability ($15K in the bank).

The Swedish taxi market is already extremely liberal in comparison to most places.


Completely unregulated and unregistered cab services have a history of very bad things happening in them in the UK.

Customers do not win, customers get assaulted and raped.


This is a complete fallacy. Any black market, by definition, will have a higher incidence of other criminal activity, because people who are willing to violate one law are often willing to violate others.

This is no different than arguing that we should continue drug prohibition because there are a lot of violent incidents that occur during transactions. That violence exists precisely because the activity was forced underground.

Moreover, even if those services weren't illegal, it nevertheless is true that lower cost services will always bear a higher degree of risk. The same thing applies to practically any business. Being poor sucks, but pricing such people out of entire industries won't help them.


"This is a complete fallacy."

What's a fallacy? That the unregulated market resulted in a lot of rapes and assaults, and now it's more regulated (and parts of previous practice are illegal) there are less?

Because that's what actually happened, whether you think it's a fallacy or not.


As you pointed out, the rapes and assaults are ongoing. By making the bottom of the market illegal (by making it uneconomical), you haven't stopped these crimes from happening, you've simply forced them to occur in the black market where there is even less of a chance to prevent them.

Again, the analogy with drug prohibition is clear. There is an incredible amount of violence occurring, but that isn't a justification for continuing its illegality. To the contrary, its illegal nature is the primary reason the violence occurs, because there is no way to settle disputes in the court system.

Similarly, someone operating a black market taxi cannot call the police when someone refuses to pay. Instead, they must resort to threatening (and engaging in) violence to get payment. The customers may engage in violence against these underground drivers for the same reason. Making it illegal serves nobody, and only increases danger for all parties.


As you pointed out, the rapes and assaults are ongoing. By making the bottom of the market illegal (by making it uneconomical), you haven't stopped these crimes from happening, you've simply forced them to occur in the black market where there is even less of a chance to prevent them.

Except the numbers are now smaller, less people are put at risk and less people see that risk realised. It demonstrably has made the situation better, not worse.

Again, the analogy with drug prohibition is clear. There is an incredible amount of violence occurring, but that isn't a justification for continuing its illegality. To the contrary, its illegal nature is the primary reason the violence occurs

Except that turns out not to be anything like what happened with cabs when the violence was worse when the illegality was not present. So no, it's not a good analogy and it doesn't work.

Similarly, someone operating a black market taxi cannot call the police when someone refuses to pay. Instead, they must resort to threatening (and engaging in) violence to get payment.

This is their lookout for running an illegal service.

The customers may engage in violence against these underground drivers for the same reason. Making it illegal serves nobody, and only increases danger for all parties.

Except it has actually reduced the danger.

Look, you can argue the prohibition line all you like but it doesn't match what has actually happened out in the real world.


Since the article doesn't get into your purported statistics, I can only speculate as to what you are referring to. People in the U.S. often try to retroactively justify tougher drug laws by pointing to lower crime rates, when in fact often times people are simply less likely to report being victimized because they were engaging in an illegal transaction.

Moreover, reality has a way of resisting controlled experiments. It is essentially impossible to control every variable that might influence reported crime rates, so the mere fact that there may be fewer reported taxi-related crimes after regulation increased than before would be an unconvincing argument.

This is really an epistemological argument. Due to the inherent uncontrollability of every variable, the only way to accurately understand the effects of a government policy are to look at the economic incentives it creates. Simply asserting that economic incentives that underly the drug market don't also apply to other black markets is arbitrary.


And you simply asserting that the economic incentives that do underly the drug market apply everywhere is every bit as arbitrary!

Drugs are not like cabs. You can't get a licensed drug after five minutes wait. Nobody actually wants or needs a specifically illegal cab, they just want a cab. The analogy simply does not work.

What's unconvincing is you calling my argument a fallacy and then falling back to "oh but it's hard to measure!"

--edit-- also FFS you think anyone's put off reporting assault because they were in an illegal cab? What the hell are you on? It's not illegal to be a customer, it's illegal to run the service.


It isn't arbitrary to assert the universality of economic laws -- no school of economics holds otherwise. In fact the entire point of this science is to discover principles that exist in all circumstances.

Moreover asserting the difficulty of empirical measurement isn't a cop-out; it's one of the most fundamental debates, not just in economics, but in philosophy. This is Plato vs Aristotle, or Kant vs Hegel. It's an incredibly important issue and not one to dismiss so nonchalantly.

Regarding the likelihood of reporting assault, I was specifically talking about drugs. You are probably right about the unlicensed taxi customers, but nevertheless the statistics for taxi assaults don't tell then whole story because there is no way to account for assaults that occurred elsewhere that would have occurred in taxis has they been more readily available. Even if that data were available, the uncontrollability of other factors would continue to burden your attempts at empirical proof.


It isn't arbitrary to assert the universality of economic laws

But it is arbitrary to assert that it works identically for all commodities and services. Demand for some things (a ride home) is easily sublimed from one solution (unlicensed cab) to another (licensed cab). Demand for other things (heroin, weed, whatever) does not work the same way because the demand is 100% aligned with the illegal item and therefore far more likely to set up a much larger black market.

I think you would have a very hard time proving that the crime levels stayed the same and the crime had just moved. Allowing unlicensed, unregistered cabs that pick (mainly drunk) people up from the side of the road, was putting vulnerable young people at risk. At least some of this demand has been shifted to traceable, regulated businesses.


Of course a fully-illegal thing will create a larger black market than a partially-illegal thing, but that's only a quantitative difference; the economics of the resulting black market remains then same. As long as they are outside the legal system, they will experience more violence, and unscrupulous people will continue to falsely claim that this justifies further marginalizing and regulating such activity.


Except when you talk about something like drugs it's easy to show the total violence increases, and when talking about something like unregulated taxi firms you can't make any such claim because it's easy to see how that market is killed dead with little to no black market, because nobody particularly wanted the product in the first place, it was just there.


Here in London, unlicensed cabs are often as or more expensive than the regulated ones. So, please explain how this helped your "poor people" to get taxis?


If the price is the same, then that indicates that there is a shortage of supply and the unlicensed cabs are filling that demand. In that case, the choice for many people isn't between licensed and unlicensed cabs, but rather between unlicensed cabs and no cabs at all.

Cracking down on these unlicensed cabs won't hurt the wealthy as much, who naturally have more choices for transportation, but it could absolutely hurt poorer people who have don't have as many alternatives.


Well you seemed fairly clear that poor people were being priced out of the market, but surely , if there's demand, there would be supply at a lower price with increased risk? Why isn't this happening?

Given that you seem to have plenty of real world experience about this, it would be interesting to hear your explanation. Also, still waiting for you to explain how poor people have been priced out of the industry.


I was referring to lower cost (but legal) services. For example, living in a cheaper apartment complex generally is riskier, because there tends to be more crime in the area than there would be in more expensive apartments. This point (which I made in my third paragraph) is separate from the point I was making about black markets.

In the case of unlicensed cabs, they are clearly in the "black market" category. As with all black markets, they aren't necessarily cheaper than their legal equivalents, but nonetheless they are there due to unmet demand in the market.


There are many alternatives in London, getting a cab is a luxury. Tubes run frequently during most of the day, busses run all night.


Whether or not it is a luxury, the existence of unlicensed cabs is proof of unmet demand. They indicate either that licensed cabs are too expensive, or that they aren't in high enough supply.


It only indicates that drunk people would rather not wait five minutes for a cab they call (for the same price), but instead jump into whatever car is there. That choice has been taken away because people were getting hurt.

I'm not really sure what your problem is here.


Painting all users of unlicensed cabs as "drunk people" may be a helpful way of coloring your argument, but nonetheless if the only advantage unlicensed cabs is speed of arrival, then that is still providing for unmet demand.

If the risk of these services outweighed the time advantage, people wouldn't be using them. Moreover, eliminating the choice doesn't necessarily stop them from being victimized. Whatever form of of transportation they may use instead, such as walking, could involve similar violent crimes, which wouldn't make it into your official statistics for taxi-related crimes.


"Painting all users of unlicensed cabs as "drunk people" may be a helpful way of coloring your argument, but nonetheless if the only advantage unlicensed cabs is speed of arrival, then that is still providing for unmet demand."

They were drunk people, that's largely who used them. I have been one.

If the risk of these services outweighed the time advantage, people wouldn't be using them.

False, this assumes perfect information is available and that people always make good choices. These things are not true.

Moreover, eliminating the choice doesn't necessarily stop them from being victimized.

It makes it less likely, as the guys aren't hanging out looking for business outside pubs and clubs any more, and these drunk people (amongst whom I have been counted many times) call a registered and regulated company.

Whatever form of of transportation they may use instead, such as walking, could involve similar violent crimes, which wouldn't make it into your official statistics for taxi-related crimes.

Entirely possible, but public transport in London is pretty safe and as has been mentioned, licensed cabs are not generally more expensive, they just take a few minutes to arrive.


I don't assume perfect information; all economic activity bears risk and your choices are guided by your risk tolerance. Sometimes, you make a bad choice and suffer the consequences. Eliminating choices doesn't eliminate those consequences, it simply forces you to either adjust your risk tolerance against your will or engage in even riskier activity.

You agree, then, that awful crimes could still be occurring elsewhere but are impossible to determine whether they would have occurred in taxis prior to regulation. It is thus impossible to determine if those alternatives are actually safer, and even if they are, safety may not be the only priority people have. It is entirely based on your own subjective risk tolerance.


I don't assume perfect information; all economic activity bears risk and your choices are guided by your risk tolerance.

Not when you're drunk they aren't. It's arguable that a choice was being made. Secondly, if there isn't perfect information, it's not possible to accurately gauge the risk.

Sometimes, you make a bad choice and suffer the consequences.

And we don't, as a society, think it's reasonable to have people on edge about making the right choices all the time, so we seek to mitigate those consequences as a group.

"Eliminating choices doesn't eliminate those consequences, it simply forces you to either adjust your risk tolerance against your will or engage in even riskier activity."

OK, cool, now how terribly awful a transgression is it to force (OMG!) people to call a cab instead of stumbling into one? It's not. And that's what people do now.

And no, I don't agree with your estimation. It is not impossible to tell if crime rate has dropped, it is not likely that crimes are going unreported due to the taxi 'black market' and it's relatively easy to determine if the alternatives are safer, and they have been.

"safety may not be the only priority people have. It is entirely based on your own subjective risk tolerance."

Sure, we can agree on that, and democratically we as a society have agreed that some risks are intolerable even if (gasp!) some people have to get the bus or pay an extra 50p for a cab. So we make laws.

Come on, stop messing around, you know this is the bit you really object to, society deciding amongst itself that your unregulated business is not wanted and cannot be run here. Yes, it is the government (or the people) inflicting their will on others in the interests of safety and progress. You'll never persuade me this is wrong.


Perfect information is impossible, and the information held by an elected body is infinitely less perfect. There is no way they can take into account the subjective values of each person better than the people themselves, so it will always tend to be a majority forcing its preferences on a minority.

I make it no secret that I object to this. I think it is unethical and I certainly agree that I won't persuade you on that point. However to some degree I think you do see a problem with it, which is why you try to downplay the costs by pointing out that it is "only" 50p or "only" 5 minutes. If forcing your risk tolerance on others is indeed ethical, this psychological hedging wouldn't be necessary.


No I have no problem with it, the costs are miniscule compared to the results. There is no hedging here unless you mean a rational weighing up of costs and benefits.

It is entirely ethical to rule out the worse risks in society, because fundamentally it makes it better for all of us. Particularly the vulnerable in whatever form they take. Not everyone is even capable of rational risk assessment, and many of the rest of us don't want to have to be constantly on guard. I'm sorry if this offends you.

I'm glad you admit the outcome doesn't matter to you, only your ideals.


I've heard from my San Francisco friends that Uber is superior in every way to yellow taxis. And main reason is that it's very easy to rate drivers and you don't pay them directly.


The thing here is that you are comparing US taxis to taxis everywhere. Not everywhere taxis are crap and prices are huge.

You developed a Mac App, so you paid the required fees to Apple (Developer license, 30% cut, passing through the sandbox hoops, etc.) What would you think if another developer could do exactly the same as you, without need for sandboxing, developer license and getting 100% of the money? Don't you think this would be, let's say, odd? Wouldn't you feel it was unfair?

I just looked it up to make sure (I'm from Spain,) and taxi licenses are unregulated in Sweden. So if I spoke Swedish and knew Stockholm well enough, I could go and get a license, by passing an exam and probably paying some kind of minimal fee. It's not like the government is asking for the Moon and Uber is offering a geostationary satellite. The government asks for the bare standard, and police comply with illegal taxi laws. Illegal taxis are illegal since they don't have a permit, just like an illegal driver is one without a driving permit.


> if I spoke Swedish and knew Stockholm well enough

With some of the drivers I've had, you don't even need those two. Not that it's actually a problem, everyone speaks english and they all have GPS devices.


I was just guessing they are the bare minimum requirements that then are overlooked. I'd rather learn Swedish :)


That's fine, I'm just pointing out that dropping any/all regulation doesn't immediately make everything sunshine and roses, there are very real problems that regulation and registration seek to address.

It's not always (or not only) down to cartels and corruption.


I wouldn't use it over a normal taxi even if it were much cheaper. Other than the safety issues that sibling poster points out, there is a small but non-zero chance that my driver gets pulled over by a cop, that then discovers he's doing something illegal and I miss my plane.


  Notice some contradictions here?
Only ones that are only visible to hardcore libertarians.


Of course, because instead of trying to understand libertarian arguments it's easier to say "oh, but they're just bananas".

There is not an objective reason in the world to regulate taxi-services. None.


I love libertarian logic sometimes. Taxi regulation must have come about because mustache-twirling government goons said "This taxi thing is working too well; let's ruin it with some regulation!"


Government is just an abstraction. There were early taxi companies that lobbied for a monopoly for themselves. They asked for laws to establish a hard limit on number of licenses available. Then, they cashed out nicely because supply of taxis was limited with police force, but demand was growing. Later taxi drivers just had to buy the permit and now they are also interested in keeping the existing laws (or they lose a lot of money). There is no magic at all, pure economics + violent intervention via police.


Except none of this is true in this case - Sweden. The only regulation in place is consumer protection (driver's licenses, reputable businesses, regulated taximeter, comparison prices posted on the cars). There's nothing protecting driver's interests.


So variable pricing is regulated out of market is what you're saying.


What do you mean by variable pricing. Haggling? Having the costs vary by time is fine as long as it's detailed on the pricing sticker.

Edit: here are the details http://www.transportstyrelsen.se/Vag/Yrkestrafik/Taxi/Prisin...

Uber could use this standard exclusion: "Tariffs by written agreement exclusively for a particular customer or passenger category do not have to be reported in the price data."

edit2: I'm reading the law now. There are massive loopholes all over this thing. Uber could easily implement their standard business model within this framework if they'd just comply with a few things http://www.transportstyrelsen.se/Global/Regler/TSFS_svenska/...


Unregistered and unregulated minicabs in London resulted in a lot of raped girls. This seems like a good reason for regulation to me.


So if government was really concerned with its citizens well-being, maybe they should have simply launched a campaign informing people that it might be dangerous to take private cabs. Then private cabs industry would respond by introducing new business practices that would ensure more safety. Your reply suggests that young women have no brains of their own and should rely on government patronage solely to avoid potentially dangerous situations.


1. That campaign was launched

2. Regulation was also brought into place that made it illegal for private cab drivers to hang around touting for business, they must be called up and dispatched to you. This way you get a cab from a registered business, not some shady guy hanging around saying "I take you home seven pounds".

3. We consider it, in communist europe, part of the government's duty to protect its citizens and to enable them to live lives free of constant worry about assault, rape, robbery etc etc. I know you brave libertarians consider us childlike for not constantly considering personal defence, but it makes life a heck of a lot more pleasant.

4. The libertarian model disgusts me. If you get food poisoning you won't eat there again? If you get sexually assaulted or the car falls apart then by gum, you just won't use that firm again and you'll give them a jolly poor review! The rest of us like safety standards and rules to prevent these situations in the first place.


if a cabbie raped me, I'd totally trash him on yelp.


"it makes life a heck of a lot more pleasant"

"the libertarian model disgusts me"

Do you agree that people have different standards of what is good and what is not? If you don't like something and I'm forcing you to swallow it, you won't feel any good (even if it's good for someone else).

Now, one way to resolve it is to come up with some boundaries that we cannot cross (e.g. "do not kill") and then everyone does what they please.

Another way is to say "stronger/bigger majority can press others to comply with what those in majority feel is good".

Do you realise that any law is a threat of murder? Even if it does not say so. If I make some customers happy, but you get jealous and angry and use a law against me to make pay a fine or shut down business, you are basically threatening me with a violent police force. If I don't comply, police will take me. If I try to protect myself, they may kill me.

What's my argument for you: if you want some protection, go make it, no problem. I'm not the one who will threaten you with violence. If you find a great business model to offer protection, monitoring, insurance etc. and my company goes out of business, well, that was my risk and my opportunity. And if you go out of business, it's the same: no one gets threatened, robbed or killed. We both just try to solve the problem in a peaceful manner. But when you start talking about regulation, then it is real threat of violence, guns, prisons, rape and confiscation.


Oh there's nothing in the world like libertarian absolutism is there? Everything can be reduced to 'violence', therefore everything you disagree with is demonstrably, objectively wrong.

Here's one major flaw in your thinking "We both just try to solve the problem in a peaceful manner."

You ascribe honourable motives and noble behaviours to all actors. You are demonstrably wrong where human behaviour is concerned.

Anyway, we're no longer talking about taxis at this point, and I'm not up for a full discussion on the libertarian model. Needless to say, we don't all see the world in as black and white a way as you.


You ascribe honourable motives and noble behaviours to all actors. You are demonstrably wrong where human behaviour is concerned.

Then by this definition, you should be more concerned with giving the power to a monopoly which is a state. People would surely be very likely to abuse this kind of power. When you a have a private company, it goes out of business the moment its customers stop paying money. Government doesn't have to worry about that happening, because it can force you to pay. And you can only vote once in a number of years.


History shows us that merchants and service providers are constantly, constantly out to deceive and screw us. It's just a fact and it's why we have so many consumer protections.

The government is also not to be trusted, it's true, but at least we can vote them out.


Once in n years. And you don't really vote them out. You get the same parties and interests screwing you all over again.

You just don't see consumer protection as a service while it is - and it's monopolized by the government. If you had private consumer protection agencies financed directly, then the moment this agency starts screwing its customers, it's out of business, because people stop paying. Compare this to consumer protection via a government: you can't simply stop paying, you can't effectively influence how an agency works and you don't have a choice between various protection agencies that best suit your interests as a consumer.

Now tell me why should I ever choose government over a private market given this situation? In other words, can you convince me (and not force me to comply) that a government can protect my interests better?


What power does a private agency have? None. That's why you choose a government agency, so that when someone starts selling cheap crap to kids that's covered in toxic paint, it can be shut down.


> Do you realise that any law is a threat of murder? Even if it does not say so. If I make some customers happy, but you get jealous and angry and use a law against me to make pay a fine or shut down business, you are basically threatening me with a violent police force. If I don't comply, police will take me. If I try to protect myself, they may kill me.

dude, what's wrong with you.


Is there something incorrect about his comment? What is it?


> But when you start talking about regulation, then it is real threat of violence, guns, prisons, rape and confiscation.

You don't know much about the justice system in Scandinavia, do you?


Extra reply to "libertarian model disgusts me": you probably live 95% of your life in total peaceful anarchy. All your personal relationships are voluntary. You don't threaten your friends with moral obligations when you plan to go to a pub. You just negotiate. You try to be nice and keep others happy. And everyone in your circle values that because if you break the trust, people will stop talking to you and your life will be less happy. And you use simple tools like doors, locks, privacy, avoiding bad districts to protect yourself against random assaults. You try to prevent problems and voluntarily establish good relationships, you are not going to a church or a court any time something does not satisfy you.

It's just remaining 5% of our lives are affected by some forces that we don't understand and/or don't really like.

So I don't believe that "libertarian model" disgusts you really. You just confuse lack of imposed regulations with a lack of security. Look around you: how much security is nicely and cheaply provided for you by the fellow citizens without laws, courts and guns.


No, the libertarian model, of allowing anything and working by reputation, disgusts me.

It results in (for instance) a world where idiots drive unsafe cars with impunity. Where private drivers rape young women (somehow the market is supposed to solve this? It demonstrably did not), and a million and one other things that we, as a society, have decided constitute an unacceptable risk to the rest of us.

The problem is not that I can't form good relationships, the problem is that assholes exist, and always will. The rest of us came up with government and rules to protect ourselves from them.


Well, food poisoning happens all the time in the regulated market. People get assaulted all the time by government employees on duty.

The libertarian way, however, is not that there should be no regulations. The idea is to 1) make regulations voluntary 2) not give the right to regulate to a monopoly with the exclusive power to use force.

You see, if there is a demand for certain things on the market - like safety, for example - market finds a way to provide those things. You don't need a government to protect you, it's an illusion and the longer you believe in it, the harder it is for you to see an alternative.


Except it doesn't. The market finds a way to screw the consumer, it has been like that since the dawn of recorded history ("Caveat Emptor!") and we no longer stand for it, sorry.


If anything, it is governments that have, throughout history, a track record of screwing their citizens.


I'm not trying to say that all government and all regulation is necessarily good either. Over-regulation is a problem in a lot of places and there absolutely should be debate on what rules are sensible, which rules are unjust and intolerable, or make life worse.

I just don't accept that government, laws, taxes etc as morally wrong from the outset, or that it doesn't matter what the outcome would be without them because OMG violence!


You not accepting it doesn't mean it's not true. When you say "we should regulate taxi industry because we want higher standards of safety" you have to remember that those standards are by no means universal. Every person has his own set of standards. If 60% of people accept your standards and 40% do not, that means that those 40% would be forced to follow them. If they don't - meaning if they decide to start a business that doesn't comply with those standards to serve customers who don't agree with these same standards - they will pay fines or go to jail. It's a fact, not a perspective.

Thus you saying you don't accept that government and taxes are immoral is actually the same as saying you don't accept to call it theft and force when governments do something to the rest of the people who disagree with you.


You believe in violence and force just as much as anyone else, becauser you believe in property rights and the use of force to protect them.

If 40% of people don't accept your interpretation of land ownership rights then you would have no problem forcing them to follow your interprewtation of those, so stop getting all high and mighty as if you have an unassailably correct and violence free philosphy. You don't.


The "free market" doesn't work in the idealized way you think it does, and does not react in a way that solves such problems. The Scandinavian social-democratic model, by contrast, does work. Very few Scandinavians want to trade it in for the US model, and certainly not some kind of Tea-Party-sounding paranoia about Big Government like this press release oozes.


People always say the chant "free market doesn't work" without giving any explanation or examples. Moreover, any example should be carefully dissected and analyzed, which rarely happens. Even if people come up with examples, it's usually followed by "and this is why free market doesn't work".


The free market did not solve the problem of rapes, robberies and assaults in London's unregulated private late-night taxi business.

No, it didn't.

Now, you can argue that the people getting into those cabs should have known better, and that morally you ought to have the right to run one of these services. Law is the rest of us telling you where you can stick your absolutist morality while we find a nice balance that allows people to live the best they can with minimal restrictions.


"People always say the chant 'free market doesn't work' without giving any explanation or examples"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_failure

You're welcome.


You're right of course, quality, safety and professionalism are all subjective...


Actually, they are. But, more importantly, you are trying to decide for other people what's good for them. Some people might prefer a less safe ride with a less professional driver for less money. Now, I don't see anything wrong with informing people that private cabs might not be as safe, however the decision to use one should lie with the customer, not with the government.


How does the average person know if the cab they're getting into is in good mechanical order?

What you propose results in a race to the bottom, where cars and drivers are dangerous but deceptive about it. You create incentives to lie.


How does an average person knows which restaurant to go, which shoes to buy, which ISP to connect to internet through, which car to buy, which computer to use and which city to live in?


Well, here in the UK, if they want to know about food safety then the star rating from the government mandated hygiene check is posted on the door to the premises, letting the consumer know the cleanliness of the kitchen and the safety of food preparation practices.

This, like car safety ratings, is something rather hard to judge by a cursory look around the place. We also consider these two things important enough for regulation as they can result in illness, injury or death.

Shoes, well, if your shoes fall apart very quickly then you have a statutory right to a refund, rather than a libertarian 'right' to bitch about it and hope to damage the business. Other things are regulated similarly.

It's not a question of someone choosing for you, it's a question of society coming up with standards and regulations to take the danger of unscrupulous or negligent merchants out of the picture.


So you admit there are logical contradictions, just some people don't see them?


Fair says nothing about reasonable just applying the same rules to everyone. Forcing a school bake sale to collect sales taxes is "Fair" because it's the same rules a bakery operates under.


It's good you mentioned "same rules to everyone". Do you know that anyone on government payroll does not pay any income taxes? (Even if they do nominally, their salary is paid from everyone else's tax anyway, so it's just an accounting trick.) So the income tax is not an example of "same rules to everyone".

Same goes for certification. There are people who get the right to define certification rules and use armed police force to make you comply, and there are people who cannot do that.

Whenever you have a democratic vote and 60 persons outvote 40, a new "fair" rule is applicable to everyone, however 60 people are okay with it and 40 were against. In other words, 60 people think it is fair to force 40 persons just because the numbers look good. Is it an example of the rule that applies fairly to everyone?


It's not an accounting trick it keeps budgets honest. Otherwise outsourcing would be at a huge disadvantage even if they also get that money back.

Also the 60:40 vote issue this is why we use a representative democracy backed up with a constitution. It's harder to stay in office when you regularly piss off large voting blocks. A politician will often consider more than just what percentage of the population would vote for something but how much people on both sides of a issue care about it.


Wait, what? There is a group of people outside government that produce something that did not exist yesterday. Through taxation people called "government" are taking part of that product. (I'm not saying if it's good or bad, it's just what it is.)

Then they use a lot of accounting here and there, but it does not change the fact that in the net some people had some property transferred from others to them in a non-market fashion (not in direct exchange for some other product, but because it's a "rule"). In my view it means that "taxation" is not applied equally to everyone. So it cannot be an example of a "fair" rule that you defined earlier.

Of course, we may talk whether redistribution of wealth is "good for society" or not, but that's outside the question of "universality of the fair rule".

Am I wrong about that?


Hmmm, well, yes, and I don't know why you don't see it yourself. The people on government payroll are doing something for their income (and they are taxed like anyone else, but to avoid routing money around it may be deducted before they get paid... Here in Spain it's not the case, they pay income tax like anyone else). Not everything is a product that is sold: education would be the simplest and more down-to-Earth example.


This is just a smoke screen, it has nothing to do whatsoever with Uber and taxi regulations in Sweden.


"Regulation and legal requirements" are for running the taxi service. "Market is unregulated" is for the fares that can be charged by a taxi service.

If "existing regulations and licensing" are unfair, better rope in every one and ask for changing those regulations; asking for exemption from the rules that everyone else has to comply with is not fair either.


A lot of markets are "regulated", e.g. the food market, there is a lot of thing you can't mix into food (even in the US). Though no one would call this market "regulated".


You also need a certificate to open a restaurant in most places. You would call the restaurant market "regulated"?


Disruption for the sake of disruption.

Some of the taxi regulations are there for good reasons. If Uber cannot provide better, cheaper and safer service at lower price with the same rules they do not have right to exist. And if they want to bring a regulation down they should do it for the whole industry if it is already obsolete.


A cheaper price for goods and services is not a necessary precondition to existence. People are free to pay more than absolute rock-bottom if they feel the more expensive goods/service are superior. Unless you intended your list to be disjunctive and I read it as conjunctive, if so, apologies.


Sorry ... I meant in Stockholm. There the market is free (as few swedes here comment) with no artificial barriers on entry like medallions. There are rules but they are for everybody. So if Uber cannot make their model work they should not operate there and not whine for exceptions. So they should just find ways to make money or seize to operate there. They could bring efficiency - cheaper, quality - faster response time etc or better cars or something.


I'm just going to say that here in Seattle Uber provide better, cheaper, and, I'd guess, safer service with /significantly/ higher prices.

I choose them exclusively.

You don't have to be perfect to be better...


Really long post claiming, basically, that Uber needs a sticker and to charge a certain way for consumer safety. Neither really makes any sense. I know how Uber charges when I call a car, I don't need a sticker on the window. It's useless. Taximeters are also useless with Uber, it takes care of all the payments and tips for you automatically. I hate it when I have to cab with someone who insists on paying then takes ten minutes digging through their wallet and screwing around. With Uber I just hop out of the car and it's done. I wonder if the writer has ever even used it.


One would think a company that has success in mind would have the brains/motivation to actually learn about the culture they're setting up in. [A pattern could emerge if one were to draw parallels to wars in far-away Asian countries, though.]

They can't have that good of a grasp of Swedish culture if they thought this would work. I'm struggling to find a hypothetical country in Europe where "obnoxious American" is the preferred type of American.


Entrenched taxi industry suppresses competitors in the name of "protecting" the consumers who choose them, claiming that it's "unfair" they're operating with a different business model... Oldest story in the book.

Bureaucracy. I hope you choke on it.


FUD. What different business model? It's fairly similar to what's already being offered by other companies (nice cars, phone app, good service) and all they have to do to comply is a price sticker and a meter.


Dynamic pricing is a different business model -- it's kind of incompatible with a sticker.


Unless you use a screen. They could probably get away with showing the price in the app, it just have to be in the 10 km in 15 min format. They would still have to have a meter or their app certified. Or provide a fixed price option in the app based on from and where you're going like the other companies do, in which case I imagine they would be covered by the exemption.

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