Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft remained open for business Tuesday despite the pleas of New York officials who warned motorists to stay off the roads during Winter Storm Stella.
A state of emergency was called as New York and the rest of the Northeast as the region braced for a blizzard. But the declaration wasn't a travel ban, so the drivers — independent contractors — weren't breaking any laws, despite treacherous travel conditions.
Uber sent an email to its drivers advising them on road conditions, a spokeswoman for the ride-hailing company told Metro, and the app is open. As for extra costs for the ride, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman made an agreement with Uber in 2014 capping the amount of "surge" it can charge by applying an old law to the new service.
New York’s law against price gouging, passed in 1978, defines an “abnormal disruption of the market” as “any change in the market, whether actual or imminently threatened, resulting from stress of weather, convulsion of nature, failure or shortage of electric power or other source of energy, strike, civil disorder, war, military action, national or local emergency, or other cause of an abnormal disruption of the market which results in the declaration of a state of emergency by the governor.”
The spokeswoman for Uber explained that prices were "normal" during snow storm Stella, but if the company did charge more, the 2014 agreement prohibits the cost exceeding the cap.
UberEats, a food delivery service by the same company, was not open during the storm.
Chelsea Harrison, a spokeswoman for Lyft, confirmed that the service was available in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, but added Lyft "will keep a close eye on the storm and receive updates directly from local authorities to determine the appropriate course of action."
"There is currently no change in our pricing structure," Harrison added.
Metro reached out to the Taxi and Limousine Commission of New York on Tuesday afternoon, but due to extreme weather, the offices were closed.