Tampa Airport considering policy targeting Turo’s Airbnb-style car rental business model

Published July 30, 2019

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority went to court this spring to ban Turo, which does for car rentals what Airbnb does for overnight stays, from Tampa International Airport.

No, a federal judge ruled this month.

In denying the aviation authority’s request for a temporary injunction, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven dismissed the airport’s claim that San Francisco-based Turo does business at the airport by as an unauthorized car rental company. Private car owners rent their vehicles to Turo customers through the company’s online service and often meet renters on airport property, but not at a Turo rental counter, to hand over the keys.

“It is not a rental car company, either as defined by Florida law or by aviation authority regulations,” Scriven said during a July 11 hearing. She also doubted that the aviation authority could show that she is likely to win her case – a precondition for obtaining a preliminary injunction – or that she suffers irreparable harm (another precondition) .

‘THE LITIGATION PATH’: Hillsborough Aviation Authority lawsuit charges Turo with unauthorized use of Tampa International Airport property

Scriven didn’t say the airport couldn’t win, but suggested winning might require a “scorched earth dispute.” Instead, she gave the airport and Turo a chance to settle their differences in mediation. Both parties have said they are open to this.

Meanwhile, the Aviation Authority is expected to discuss a policy change aimed at companies like Turo this week.

“Our position remains the same,” airport spokeswoman Janet Scherberger said in an email. Tampa Bay Weather. “Turo, like any other business that benefits from the airport, must have an agreement in place to operate at the airport. We plan to present relevant policy to the board on Thursday to provide us with a regulatory framework as this business model evolves. .”

The airport says this is necessary because it spent $970 million to decongest the airport’s sidewalks, roads and rental car operations during the first phase of its planned expansion. But, according to airport officials, “peer-to-peer” car rental companies like Turo don’t pay the same type of user fees as car rental companies to help maintain facilities. At one point, the airport said in its lawsuit, Turo’s rental website offered 198 rental cars that could be delivered to the airport.

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The proposed policy would define peer-to-peer vehicle sharing as an arm’s length, remote or web-based transaction in which car owners allow someone else to drive their vehicle for a fee. Meetings between landlords and tenants should take place at the economy garage of the airport, which adjoins the new car rental center. They would be prohibited from using the terminal garages or the pick-up and drop-off curbs. They would have to pay a parking fee as well as a percentage of the gross receipts from the transaction. These types of fees, airport officials said, are based on a variety of factors and are currently 12%.

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Turo’s chief legal officer, Michelle Fang, said the company offered a year ago to pay the same $3 to $5 fee per ride that taxis, Uber, Lyft and Wingz pay. But she said a 12% fee looked like an undue burden on Tampa residents who wanted to do business through Turo.

“The charges are not commensurate with how the airport facilities are used,” Fang said. Turo will “vigorously oppose” if the aviation authority goes beyond what it can do under Florida law to regulate an out-of-state internet company, she said. But she said the company has not seen a copy of the full policy, despite requesting one as recently as Monday. “It seems to me that they are trying to circumvent the court’s decision.”

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Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected]. Follow @Danielson_Times

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