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Lyft’s NYC launch in trouble as cab commission warns public not to use ‘unauthorized’ cars

Lyft’s New York City operation hasn’t even got into first gear and it’s already having to deal with some stern words from the City and Taxi Limousine Commission (TLC) warning Lyft’s “unauthorized” drivers they could face hefty fines and telling members of the public to steer clear of the ride-sharing service.

The agency responsible for licensing and regulating the city’s cabs has fired the first salvo in what could be a long drawn-out battle between itself and Lyft, which plans to launch its service in the Big Apple – specifically in Brooklyn and Queens –at the end of this week.

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In a notice issued Wednesday, the TLC advised New Yorkers not to use Lyft’s service as it has not received the necessary authorization to operate in the city.

“Lyft has not complied with TLC’s safety requirements and other licensing criteria to verify the integrity and qualifications of the drivers or vehicles used in their service, and Lyft does not hold a license to dispatch cars to pick up passengers,” the agency said in the notice.

It warned that it’d be carrying out “enforcement operations to ensure compliance with the City’s rules and laws” when Lyft’s service launches this Friday at 7pm.

‘Fines of up to $2,000’

The notice even states that “unsuspecting drivers who sign-up with Lyft are at risk of losing their vehicles to TLC enforcement action, as well as being subject to fines of up to $2,000 upon conviction for unlicensed activity.”

Lyft told Digital Trends Wednesday it doesn’t think TLC’s licensing rules apply to its ride-sharing model and therefore believes it’s free to operate within the city. In an effort to reassure passengers about its safety standards, the San Francisco-based startup issued a “New York Safety Commitment”, detailing everything from background checks on its drivers – there are 500 waiting to start work on Friday – to rigorous car inspections.

Lyft most likely expected this kind of response from the TLC – rival Uber also ran into bother with the agency in 2012, resulting in the temporary suspension of its service.

App- and web-based ride-sharing services continue to be a cause of concern for cab drivers around the world, with protests hitting many European cities just last month.

And if the TLC thinks it’s going to have an easy time picking out Lyft cars thanks to those bright pink mustaches that sit on the front, it’s in for a surprise. The startup has decided to do away with the hairy appendages for its New York launch.

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