DFW Airport wants to scrap car-sharing service Turo, but lawsuit goes too far

App-based technology has changed our use of taxis and hotels. Why not rent cars too?

DFW International Airport is going through exactly that, and it’s not happy about it. The airport has filed a lawsuit against Turo, a California-based car-sharing service, and is seeking a permanent injunction.

With rising car rental costs, some passengers are opting for the app-based service that allows private car owners to rent their vehicles, much like short-term house rental services.

In the latest example of business ingenuity and technology catching the establishment off guard, DFW is overreacting by seeking an injunction to permanently shut down Turo. But airport executives are right to be concerned about how the company has slipped into unguarded airport parking lots.

We have seen this story before. The City of Dallas is always looking for ways to make short-term rentals like Vrbo or Airbnb pay taxes. Dallas is also one of 24 cities suing streaming services like Netflix and Hulu for franchise fees.

City Hall also made a clumsy play to kill Uber and other app-based car services when they came to town in 2013. Cooler heads prevailed and sensible local regulation was put in place. square.

In an even closer case, in 2015 a judge allowed Uber and Lyft to pick up passengers at DFW airport. At the time, taxi operators sued the DFW airport board to end carpooling, a case that was quickly dismissed.

DFW Airport is pulling out all the stops to stop Turo now. Beyond the lawsuit, the airport board is seeking a change that “will allow cars illegally rented at DFW Airport to be towed from DFW facilities,” according to a statement from airport officials.

The city councils of Dallas and Fort Worth must approve this amendment to the airport code. A vote is expected later this month.

Turo is playing a familiar game here. The company insists that it is not a car rental company, but a technology company. Uber said the same thing about not being a taxi company. And Facebook has long said the same thing about not being a media company.

It doesn’t hold water in any of these cases. If Turo is going to set up car rentals at the airport, it must abide by airport rules. Having a private car owner park and drive away in a lot near a terminal for a renter to pick up isn’t fair with rental companies who must have designated lots among other requirements.

If the company is working with DFW airport to put reasonable regulations in place, the airport should open this dialogue for the benefit of the traveling public. Many of us love Uber and Airbnb, after all. And Turo could be a time and money improvement in the traditional rental market.

But Turo needs to realize he can’t set up an app and walk away. The airport is a place where rules and regulations are designed for fair play and for public safety. Either follow this program or get out.

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