Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission sued for setting minimum limo prices

6:36 PM, Aug 28, 2013   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- Competition in the free market is the American way, but don't tell that to the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

The agency which has been under fire for several years is now being sued because it won't allow consumers to shop for lower prices when they hire a limousine service.

If you hire a limousine in Hillsborough County, whether you are going a mile or 30 miles, it will cost you a minimum of $50. Our investigation showed that the established companies who make big political contributions like it that way. That's why the lawsuit was filed Wednesday on behalf of consumers and limo companies that want to charge less.

The group which filed the lawsuit points out if you need a ride home from the airport and take a taxi, it's one rate. But if a limo driver wants to give you that same ride it's $50.

The Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission says limo drivers have to charge a minimum of $50 -- no matter how far or how long they drive you.  

Justin Pearson, of the consumer watchdog group Institute for Justice, says the minimum helps powerful taxi companies but hurts limo drivers and customers.

According to Peason, "If a limo driver wants to charge a customer less and give their customer a better deal, they are not allowed to do so -- it's illegal."

So the Institute is suing the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission, to get them to lift the minimum. They've even launched a YouTube ad making their case.

Peason says, "It should not be illegal for a business owner to offer their client a better deal."

Meanwhile, industry insiders are making their case to the three county commissioners who sit on the Public Transportation Commission Board.

The 10 News Investigators analyzed campaign contributions and found the same companies who want the $50 minimum had donated thousands to commissioners.

We asked industry spokesman Dave Shaw to explain the $50 minimum.

He told us, "The industry thinks it is good to have that minimum."

When we asked, "How does that benefit the consumer?"

Shaw told us, "It's about safety, providing cars that are updated."

No, that doesn't answer the question, let's try again. We asked how the consumer benefits by paying a $50 minimum if someone else wants to do it for $35.

Shaw told us, "I understand it is assuring them they do have top-of-the-line vehicles."

Still no cigar, let's try one more time and Shaw said, "I understand that, as a consumer I shop for a low price when I go to Manhattan."

However, in Hillsborough County the consumer doesn't have that choice.

While there are some other cities in the state that have a minimum limo fare. The organization that filed the suit, the Institute for Justice says there is talk about eliminating them to avoid a lawsuit. The Institute for Justice has been successful in several suits it has filed on behalf of small businesses and consumers.

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