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Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar hit with $20,000 citations from California utilities commission

Uber for iPhone

Transportations services like Lyft and Sidecar came under fire from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) last month, and now citations are being issued — to the tune of $20,000 each. Today CPUC stated that it has issued citations to Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar for alleged "public safety violations," giving each company 20 days to pay the fee or file an appeal. According to the agency, the three services are "charter-party" carriers that must obtain its authorization before taking to California streets; the commission says that such authorization is required to insure that certain insurance and driver requirements are met.

Not surprisingly, there is disagreement on whether the citations are valid. Both Sidecar and Lyft responded today in blog posts, describing themselves as "ridesharing" services, where two individuals agree to share a ride, instead of the charter-style service described by CPUC. According to Lyft, it's simply a matter of current law and regulations not being applicable to the kind of services these companies provide. "Transportation has historically been a highly regulated industry," reads the company's post, "and the existing regulations weren't designed to imagine a world where two neighbors who have never met are able to connect within a matter of minutes to share a ride across town."

Both of the companies state that they have spoken with CPUC and will continue to do so — but in the meantime they will be moving forward with business as usual. If customers would like to join the debate, Lyft and Sidecar urge them to contact the California Public Utilities Commission, California Governor Jerry Brown, or sign a petition hosted by Change.org.

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