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Local cab companies sue smartphone car service Uber

Peter Faris, CEO of Szabo Faris LLC Transportation Solutions,  works with Uber, a technology firm which has created a mobile app which allows consumers to use their device to request a nearby limousine.

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Peter Faris, CEO of Szabo Faris LLC Transportation Solutions, works with Uber, a technology firm which has created a mobile app which allows consumers to use their device to request a nearby limousine.

Boston Cab Dispatch Inc. and EJT Management, two local cab companies, said Tuesday that they filed a lawsuit Monday against Uber Technologies Inc., a company whose mobile app enables consumers to summon a hired car without needing to hail a taxi cab.

A suit filed Monday in Suffolk Superior Court alleges that Uber “ignores laws and regulations developed over decades designed to protect consumers, ensure public safety, safeguard competition, and provide non-discriminatory services,” said a press release issued by the cab companies’ public relations firm, DBMediaStrategies Inc.

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Uber is “deceiving consumers about fees, drivers, safety, and insurance,” the release added.

An attempt to reach San Francisco-based Uber was not immediately successful.

A Globe story from last August noted that local cab operators have complained that Uber creates unfair competition because it dispatches cars that are not regulated the way taxis are. With Uber, a consumer can find a hired driver of a livery sedan; such rides can cost about 50 percent more than a cab.

In that story, Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick was quoted as saying that his company’s app is disrupting a business that is not used to change.

“I’m in the technology industry,” Kalanick said then. “Was Yahoo upset when Google came out? Of course. In that industry, people compete. In the cab industry, they try to curtail competition.”

The Tuesday press release from the cab companies included a statement from Oleg Uritsky, a Boston fleet owner.

‘‘You can’t simply go into business as a cab company and ignore decades of rules and regulations,’’ Uritsky said. ‘‘The regulations exist for a reason and Uber is exploiting loopholes for its own benefit.’’

The suit asks the court to award the plaintiffs profits from all fares collected by Uber as well as monetary and punitive damages, which could total in the tens of millions of dollars, according to Brody, Hardoon, Perkins & Kesten, the law firm representing the cab companies.

Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.
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