Institute for Justice Sues Tampa-Area Commission For Forcing Consumers To Pay More And For Preventing Competition And Job Creation

John Kramer
John Kramer · August 25, 2013

Tampa, Fla.
—It shouldn’t be illegal for businesses to give their customers a better deal. And yet, in Tampa, Fla., the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is making it illegal for limo and sedan entrepreneurs to give their customers a better deal when it comes to rides. That is why a coalition including a limo driver, his small business and consumers has joined with the Institute for Justice to sue the Public Transportation Commission today in state court in Tampa under the Florida Constitution.

The limo driver and small limo business want to offer cheaper deals and better values to customers. The customers want to accept these offers. There is only one thing standing in their way—the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

The commission was created by the Florida Legislature, ironically, to protect transportation consumers in Hillsborough County. It is the only commission of its kind in the entire state of Florida. Not surprisingly, it has passed burdensome regulations and restrictions not common in other places. And these restrictions include requiring limo and sedan drivers to overcharge their customers.

One of the rules specifically mandates that limo and sedan drivers charge at least $50 per ride, no matter how short the ride. The drivers and customers are allowed to agree on a price above the minimum, but agreeing on a lower price is against the law.

“This law is blatant protectionism,” explained Institute for Justice Florida Chapter Executive Director Justin Pearson. “Large, politically connected taxi companies love this rule because it prevents competition from limousines and sedans. Even some large limo companies like the rule because it prevents smaller limo companies from competing with them on the basis of price. With the commission’s help, these entrenched interests have been able to divvy up the people of Tampa. But that is not the proper role of government. Government is there to protect public health and safety; not to protect businesses from giving consumers a better deal.”

“Consumers and entrepreneurs—and not the government—should decide for themselves how much a ride should cost,” Pearson said. “It is also unconstitutional for the commission to force consumers to be overcharged and to harm small business owners by preventing them from growing their businesses and creating jobs by offering better values to their customers.”

“Tampa is one of only a handful of places where these minimum fare laws exist,” explained IJ Attorney Ari Bargil. “Consumers need government protection from prices that are too low as much as they need government protection from pillows that are too soft.”

The Institute for Justice is representing Thomas Halsnik, Black Pearl Limousine, Kenrick Gleckler and Daniel Faubion. For driver Thomas Halsnik and Black Pearl Limousine, this lawsuit seeks to vindicate their right to economic liberty. For the customers—Kenrick Gleckler and Daniel Faubion—this lawsuit seeks to vindicate their right to freely bargain for services.

The defendants in this case are the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission and its chairman, Victor Crist, in his official capacity. The commission is responsible for enacting and enforcing the minimum limousine-fare rule.

The Institute for Justice is the national law firm for liberty. IJ advocates for a rule of law under which individuals can control their own destinies as free and responsible members of society. Through litigation, communication, outreach and strategic research, IJ secures protections for individual liberty and extends the benefits of freedom to those whose full enjoyment of their rights has been denied by the government. The Institute for Justice is headquartered in Arlington, Va., and has state chapters in five states including Florida. The Institute for Justice has secured numerous victories for economic liberty.