“Uber” app hits Milwaukee, but city officials say it’s illegal
MILWAUKEE (WITI) – The city of Milwaukee may sue a company funded by actor Ashton Kutcher. The company, called “Uber” has an app that allows users to hitch a ride without paying a cab. City of Milwaukee officials say it’s illegal.
Uber is popular and controversial in large cities across the country. The app launched on Thursday, February 13th in Milwaukee.
With one click, a private vehicle picks you up and takes you to your desired destination.
It’s the newest way to get around in Milwaukee — your own, personal driver.
“We are a technology company, and its a mobile app that connects riders to drivers,” Uber’s General Manager Nick Anderson said.
With the click of a button, a driver in your area is notified and sent your way — and there is no need to hit the ATM.
“All of the payments are handled seamlessly through the app. You don’t ever have to give the driver credit card information. You never have to give him cash,” Anderson said.
However, there is a problem. Many in City Hall say the new technology is illegal.
“We’re fairly confident, at least on the face of it, they are a cab,” Milwaukee City Clerk Jim Owczarski said.
He says Uber contacted him two months ago to say they were coming to town. Owczarski said great — apply for permits.
“Uber is a rogue application,” Red Christensen with United American Taxi said.
Christensen, with Milwaukee’s largest taxi company says Uber operates without applying for permits.
“Essentially, this company is not registered in the city of Milwaukee, licensed and none of their drivers are licensed,” Christensen said.
“They made it crystal clear they have no intentions of complying with those rules and regulations,” Owczarski said.
On Uber’s first day of operation, Alderman Bob Bauman says he’s asked the city attorney to file a lawsuit against Uber.
“Every city we go to, we research the local requirements. So they’re licensed, they have the proper insurance, and it’s fully legal,” Anderson said.
Anderson says Uber uses local professional companies and conducts their own background checks.
A FOX6 reporter gave Uber a try on Thursday, and within minutes, the driver, Nael showed up in a Merdedes.
Nael says Uber is evening the playing field — and Nael showed FOX6 all of the necessary licenses for the trip. The app even showed a picture of Nael’s license plate.
After a quick trip, and receipt was sent to FOX6′s reporter’s email. The trip cost $12
It is a convenient program that city leaders say will be tested in court.
“We welcome the new service, but they have to comply with all our applicable rules and regulations regarding limousines, taxis,” Owczarski said.
Uber says right now, they’re doing a soft launch in Milwaukee. They plan to be fully operational in three to four weeks.
Uber is no stranger to lawsuits. A complaint from cabbies in Chicago was filed last week, and there is also a case in Boston. In San Francisco, there’s a wrongful death lawsuit.
Uber is being sued by the family of a six-year-old girl who died in a crash on New Year’s Eve.
They say the driver was using the app when the girl was hit — but Uber denies that claim.