Portland Pounces On Groupon
Oregon city stopping citizens from saving money in tough times.
3:40 PM, Apr 26, 2012 • By KELLY JANE TORRANCE
As Ronald Reagan famously quipped, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I'm here to help.’” Portland, Oregon, though, really is here to help. The problem is that the city hasn’t created laws to benefit Portlanders—it’s created them to benefit one specific industry, at the expense of every consumer in the area.
The Portland city council two years ago put in place regulations that force limousine and sedan services to charge a $50 minimum for rides to and from the airport, and at least 35 percent more than taxis for trips to any other destination. And these transportation companies cannot pick up customers until at least an hour after the customer calls for a ride.
And it gets worse. Daily deal companies such as Groupon and LivingSocial partner with local businesses looking for new customers and offer limited-time specials that allow people to buy goods and services at a discounted price.
But when two companies offered their chauffeur services at a cut-rate through Groupon in separate months last year, Portland responded each time by assessing fines on every Groupon sold: a total of $635,500 for Towncar.com and $259,500 for Fiesta Limousine. The firms refunded their would-be customers rather than risk going bankrupt.
The Institute for Justice, the libertarian public-interest law firm, has just filed suit in federal court against the city. They succinctly summarize the issue at stake:
As IJ attorney Wesley Hottot says in the nonprofit's YouTube video outlining the case, “That isn’t just wrong; it’s unconstitutional.”
IJ’s complaint filed today with the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, which will be put online shortly, is based on the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment and its Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. The law firm expects the more general legal question at issue here eventually to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.