Uber is a program that allows people in need of a ride to summon a car using a mobile phone app.
On Friday morning, the chairman of the D.C. Taxicab commission used the service to call for a ride from the Cleveland Park area to the Mayflower Hotel.
At the end of the trip, hack inspectors were waiting. The car was impounded, and the driver received a fistful of tickets, including failure to have the appropriate taxi driver's license, failure to have the appropriate license for the car, and improper pricing.
Uber, a service that has been successful in San Francisco, jumped into the D.C. market in December.
The company does not have any cars or drivers itself. Instead, it contracts with local taxi and limousine companies, and dispatches one of those regional contractors when it gets a request.
"The primary issue with the Uber company," Taxicab Commissioner Ron Linton told News4, "is that they are trying to operate as a limousine company, using taxi rules, and it can't be done."
The distinction between the two, Linton says, is that rates for limousines are made between customer and driver based on time, before the start of the trip. Rates for taxis operating in the District are based on distance, and they are set exclusively by the commission.
That means that if Uber-operated cars want to charge on a by-the-mile basis in the District, they'll need to install meters.
In addition, D.C. law states that taxis and limos registered in other states are allowed to pick up customers in D.C., but they have to drop those passengers off outside the District. Maryland or Virginia operators can't pick up and drop off inside D.C.
Earlier this week, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was asked about the Taxicab Commission's concern by the Post. He told the paper: “We would not have launched in D.C. if we were not confident and comfortable that we were doing right by the regulations and by our customers.”
Linton said that he'd referred the issue to the District's attorney general, as well.