Court: Businesses Must Overcharge Customers if Their County Government Says So

Second District Court of Appeal Denied Motion for Rehearing in Constitutional Lawsuit

In Hillsborough County, Florida, providing a limo service cheaper than the government demands is still against the law. On June 9, the Second District Court of Appeal denied the Institute for Justice’s (IJ) motion for rehearing in a constitutional challenge.

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission (PTC) is literally ordering businesses to overcharge their customers. It does this through a minimum limo fare rule, which sets a floor below which limo drivers can never charge—regardless of distance, time, or season. When IJ filed the lawsuit, the minimum was $50. During the litigation, the PTC reduced it to $30. The PTC is currently discussing deregulation which would likely include removing the rule entirely.

The legal challenge was brought under the Florida Constitution. IJ represented a small business owner, his limo business, and two customers. The business owner, Thomas Halsnik, wanted to expand his business by offering the same types of off-peak, off-season, and group discounts that other industries take for granted. Obviously, the customers wanted to accept these deals and pay less. If these willing service-providers lived almost anywhere else in the U.S., they would have been able to do so, but they couldn’t because they live in Hillsborough County.

A 3-judge panel for the Second District Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of the rule without writing an opinion. IJ asked the full Court to review the panel’s decision, but it declined to do so. Under the Florida Constitution, this means the case is over, as only cases with written opinions can be appealed.

“It should not be against the law to give customers a good deal,” said IJ Attorney Justin Pearson. “It is unfortunate the Court chose to disregard the Florida Constitution, but we take solace in the fact that the minimum fare rule has been reduced and appears destined for full repeal.” 

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