The New York Taxi and Limousine Commission Is Being Called Out On Their Ban Regarding Commercial Speech

The limousines, black cars, livery and taxicabs in New York may be owned by the businesses but in truth they are controlled by the Taxi and Limousine Commission. The city highly regulates all passenger transportation but the businesses are still entitled to their constitutional rights. Prior to May of 2005 pre-authorization was required by the TLC for all interior advertising in regulated vehicles. In 2004 the installation of passenger monitors was required by the TLC. The next year the ad ban for taxicabs was lifted by the TLC to enable them to offset the costs.

Vugo is a media distribution company. In 2015 they attempted a partnership with New York City rideshare companies including Lift and Uber. The software from Vugo was downloaded onto tablets the riders could view. Sixty percent of the revenue generated from the ads would be paid to the drivers. The TLC stated interior advertising would not be approved for ridesharing. Vugo had to cancel their plans for expansion. Vugo then challenged TLC under the first amendment in New York’s United States District Court. Ronnie Abrams was the judge for the Southern District of New York. She declared Vugo’s commercial rights to speech had been violated due to the ban of TLC.

Judge Abrams determined TLC was promoting the interests of the state. She additionally determined the comfort of the customers was substantial. Due to the exemption of liveries and taxis the ban was deemed under inclusive. This ban was not connected to the comfort of the customers. The judge noted there were no limits on the size or placements of the ads. The final result was TLC was prevented from discrimination pertaining to rideshare vehicles. These vehicles were given the same commercial opportunities as the taxis. For additional details please visit https://www.forbes.com/sites/wlf/2018/03/06/haling-the-first-amendment-nyc-taxi-authoritys-ad-ban-struck-down-as-unconstitutional/2/#143892195cd5.

The advertising rule was justified by TLC with a study conducted seven years previously. The study showed Taxi TV was annoying to 33 percent of all passengers. This was not enough evidence to support the ban imposed on speech. The rules of TLC disfavored marketing and were considered to be invalid. Numerous courts for federal appeals were urged by the Washington Legal Foundation to assess the content of restrictions regarding commercial speech restrictions. It is possible the ruling of Judge Abrams will be appealed by the TLC.