NY wants crackdown on Uber, Airbnb

 

The top cop in New York is making a public plea for trendy startup companies to fall in line with existing regulations, and not think they are immune just because they operate online.    

“Regulators should not be deterred and, as a practical matter, they can’t and won’t be — we are now living in an online world, one that offers great promise but is also becoming one of the primary crime scenes of the 21st century,” state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times on Wednesday.

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“Major service providers cannot be allowed to treat it as a digital Wild West. The only question is how long it will take for these cybercowboys to realize that working with the sheriffs is both good business and the right thing to do.”

He blasted companies like Airbnb and Uber, which he said “claim that the fact that their goods and services are provided online somehow makes them immune from regulation.”

In 2010, New York passed a law preventing most apartments from being used for short-term rentals like hotels, which would seem to bar Airbnb from allowing people to rent out their apartments to visitors. The law protects neighbors wary of a “parade of strangers,” Schneiderman wrote, as well as tourists who deserve the protections that come with added regulations on hotels.

Airbnb has resisted, and authorities subpoenaed information from the company about roughly 15,000 hosts.

On Monday, Airbnb took down 2,000 listings in the state, after an internal investigation found that some renters “weren’t providing a quality, local experience to guests,” it said.

That move suggested “that our concerns are not misplaced,” Schneiderman wrote. “But none of this promotes confidence in the site — by users, their neighbors or the regulators whose job it is to protect the public.”

He also took aim at Uber, the car service app that has threatened taxi and limousine companies.

The company has come under fire for its surcharges during bad weather, which have increased rates by as much as eight times in New York.

“Uber makes some persuasive arguments for its pricing model, but the ability to pay truly exorbitant prices shouldn’t determine someone’s ability to get critical goods and services when they’re in short supply in an emergency,” Schneiderman wrote.

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