More than 30 Maryland cab companies filed a lawsuit Thursday against the popular ride-sharing company Uber, alleging antitrust violations and demanding an unspecified amount of damages for upending the state's cab industry.
The lawsuit, filed late Thursday in Baltimore Circuit Court, joins a string of legal actions against Uber as traditional taxicab companies and regulators across the country confront the company's cheaper and consumer-friendly army of drivers.
Led by five major cab companies and their drivers, the lawsuit contends that Uber's surge-pricing model is akin to price-fixing, that its refusal to abide by traditional cab regulations creates an unfair marketplace, and that taken together, the company has interfered with cabdrivers' relationships with their clients.
Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said in an email that it would be "premature to comment on litigation we have not reviewed."
But he said, "I can tell you that Uber will vigorously defend the rights of riders to enjoy competition and choice, and drivers to build their own small businesses."
Maryland cab companies have already tried to thwart Uber's business model in other ways, filing an injunction with the state's regulatory commission and lobbying against a new law in Annapolis that would have created a new set of operating rules for Uber.
The company threatened to leave Maryland if it were to be regulated like a cab company, but has stayed put while a resolution is pending. Last month it opened a new service area in Annapolis.
The company connects willing drivers with riders through a smartphone application, setting prices based on demand. The app handles all transactions, and drivers who pick up riders through Uber don't necessarily have to meet all of the costly requirements set out in state law for taxi drivers.
Uber launched in San Francisco in 2009 and now operates in more than 35 U.S. cities. Uber supported the legislation in Annapolis that would have allowed it to continue calling itself a smartphone app, not a cab company, but would have required background checks for its drivers, rideshare insurance of up to $1 million and vehicle inspections.
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