Uber beats Philadelphia cabbies' antitrust appeal

(Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc on Tuesday defeated an appeal by 80 Philadelphia taxicab companies accusing the ride-sharing company of trying to monopolize that city’s vehicle-for-hire market.

FILE PHOTO - Uber's logo is pictured at its office in Tokyo, Japan, November 27, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The broadly worded decision by a unanimous three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could help Uber defend against similar claims in New York and other cities where the taxi industry is struggling.

Taxicab companies and a trade group, the Philadelphia Taxi Association, claimed that Uber had an unfair advantage by being allowed to enter Philadelphia in October 2014 without having to comply with various local regulations governing taxis.

They said its presence caused a 30 percent drop in taxi ridership and the loss of nearly 1,200 drivers who jumped to Uber, while the value of medallions needed to operate taxis plunged from $545,000 in 2014 to about $80,000 two years later.

Circuit Judge Marjorie Rendell nevertheless said the lawsuit was “devoid of allegations of truly anticompetitive conduct” and failed to show any intent to monopolize.

She also said Uber’s activity may have enhanced competition in Philadelphia, which has about 1.58 million people.

“Inundating the Philadelphia taxicab market with Uber vehicles, even if it served to eliminate competitors, was not anticompetitive,” she wrote.

“Rather, this bolstered competition by offering customers lower prices, more available taxicabs, and a high-tech alternative to the customary method of hailing taxicabs and paying for rides.”

Lawyers for the taxicab companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Uber declined to comment.

The 80 taxicab companies together held about 240 of the 1,610 medallions in Philadelphia in 2014.

They said the number of medallion cabs subsequently fell below 1,400 as Uber gained market share.

The case is Philadelphia Taxi Association Inc et al v Uber Technologies Inc, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 17-1871.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman