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posted on July 12th, 2018

Fighting to protect our community’s right to share their cars

Today, Turo has taken a proactive stance to protect our community from unjust and unconstitutional practices. We have sued the City of Los Angeles because Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) has misclassified Turo as a rental car company and has begun an aggressive and unlawful campaign against our hosts. While disappointed to add a second airport lawsuit to our docket (the City of San Francisco sued Turo in January and Turo subsequently countersued), we’re also fired up to fiercely defend our community’s rights to share cars, in California and all over the world.

What’s going on

Bowing to the relentless lobbying efforts of Enterprise Rent-A-Car to protect their market dominance, LAX is insisting that Turo hosts pay the same fees to the airport as rental car companies, essentially equating the two. I’ve said it once, twice, perhaps hundreds of times — Turo is not a rental car company. Turo neither owns a fleet of cars, nor do we use airport infrastructure (parking lots, shuttles, etc.) to support our community’s operations, which are the primary reasons behind the rental car fee structure. We are an online marketplace that empowers people to help make ends meet by sharing their cars with other folks who need a car. Peer-to-peer car sharing is a distinct and separate industry with a separate legal framework from car rental, and should thus be permitted distinctly and separately from car rental.

Since early last year, Turo has been trying to work with LAX officials to devise a permitting regime that’s tailored to the peer-to-peer car sharing experience, which is paradigmatically different from the rental car experience. We recognize the tremendous value of providing cars to travelers to LAX and other regional airports, and would be more than happy to forge a fair permitting structure for hosts looking to deliver to LAX.

We want to pay fees. We want to be good citizens to our airport colleagues and their esteemed institutions. We deeply respect airports, and want to collaborate with them to create new paradigms that appropriately correlate to the emerging economy we’re creating. Those efforts to pen such a permit, however, have been rejected by LAX officials.

Turo executives met with those officials last year, but the talks were fruitless. LAX insisted on misclassifying Turo as a rental car company in contravention of California state law. Over the last few months, I’ve personally reached out directly to the CEO of LAX and offered to create a win-win permitting structure for both LAX and Turo’s community. Unfortunately, LAX has refused to respond to my olive-branch collaboration efforts.

Because of their refusal to discuss an appropriate permitting regime for Turo and our community, we have sued LAX. Everyday people like you and I should not be treated as if we were multi-billion dollar rental car companies — those fees would be astronomical and detrimental to individual people. LAX seems to be out of touch with those citizens they’re meant to serve — the people of Los Angeles.

The battle for justice

We agree that Turo should pay a fair price to allow our community to share their cars on LAX property, but we categorically disagree that equating private citizens with a massive, fleet-owning rental car company is fair or logical. Perhaps LAX’s insistence can be explained by the prospective influx of cash — state law allows airports to collect a fee of up to $37.50 per on-airport rental car agency transaction to fund the development of a consolidated car rental facility, which amounted to $32.5 million in revenue for LAX in 2017. And LAX would force Turo hosts to pay an additional 10% of each booking to the airport, meaning a still bigger money grab.

Or perhaps LAX is motivated by the car rental players, spearheaded by Enterprise, whose lobbyists are constantly whispering in the ears of airports and regulators nationwide, insisting that Turo should be regulated the same as them. Enterprise is a tired old dinosaur using dirty tactics to defend their hegemony. Threatened by the new, the innovative, they’re relying on their deep pockets to submarine the Turo community. But David should always fight back against Goliath.

Just this week, a judge in San Francisco rejected the city’s attempt to toss out Turo’s claim in our countersuit. The court ordered that the city of San Francisco defend against Turo’s allegations that the city is violating not just our rights, but our community’s rights, to exchange cars at or near the airport without being subject to unconstitutional and unlawful fees.

To our Angeleno community:

We’re fighting alongside you and we’re fighting for you. We’ll keep fighting fiercely against car rental companies’ anti-competitive tactics to preserve your right to share cars with travelers to LAX. We sincerely hope to collaborate with LAX, and the city of San Francisco for that matter, to forge this car sharing path for you. We want to partner with airports all over the country, but we also must insist on being categorized as what we are — a community of responsible citizens using an innovative new technology to share and conserve resources for a brighter, smarter tomorrow.

Andre is the Turo CEO and a true car enthusiast. After many years in the consumer web space, he combines his passion for cars, technology, and the environment each day at Turo as he works to put the world’s one billion cars to better use.