IJ Takes on the Tampa Price Control Police

October 1, 2013

IJ client Tom Halsnik has worked hard to grow his car service business over the years. He has learned what works, and what doesn’t, and he knows that his business would be best served by charging his customers less.

Unfortunately for Tom and his customers, they live in Tampa, Fla., where the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission (the “PTC”) has said that what Tom wants to do is against the law. The PTC was created, ironically, to protect Tampa’s transportation customers. Instead, it is trying to protect consumers from low prices.

Specifically, the PTC requires all sedan and limousine drivers to charge at least $50 per ride, no matter how short the ride, even when the driver wants to charge less. If Tom even attempts to offer a better value to his customers and potential customers, he is breaking the law.

Understandably, IJ clients Kenrick Gleckler and Daniel Faubion do not want protection from low prices when they hire limos. They would happily accept Tom’s offers, if only the government would get out of the way.

This is why Tom, Kenrick and Daniel joined with IJ to file a constitutional lawsuit in Hillsborough County Circuit Court on August 28. We are asking the court to find that the PTC’s minimum fare rule is unconstitutional. Our clients’ demands are simple: Tom wants to offer lower prices, and Kenrick and Daniel want to accept them.

It should not be against the law for businesses to offer their clients a better deal. The Florida Constitution protects the right to economic liberty, and the Florida Supreme Court has shown a willingness to strike down laws that interfere with the right of consumers to bargain for lower prices. In this case, we will show that these protections are just as applicable to the transportation industry as they are to Florida’s other industries.

After all, it is consumers and entrepreneurs—not the government—who should decide how much a ride from a car service should cost. Government-imposed minimum-fare rules do not help consumers. All they do is increase costs, stifle innovation and protect industry insiders from competition—hardly a wise or constitutional use of government power.

With IJ’s help, Tom will be able to grow his business by offering better deals. And customers like Kenrick and Daniel will be able to hold on to a little more of their hard-earned money.

Justin Pearson is the executive director of the IJ Florida Chapter.

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