Chicago, New York Sued for Banning Ads in RideShare Vehicles

Chicago’s ban on advertisements in ride-sharing cars infringes on the First Amendment, a startup company claims in a federal lawsuit.

James Bellefeuille, the founder of Vugo, and the Liberty Justice Center filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago yesterday in US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois yesterday, claiming that the city is violating free speech and equal protection under the US and Illinois constitutions by discriminating against ridesharing in favor of taxicabs. Taxis are permitted to show advertising inside and outside their vehicles.

Vugo is also suing the City of New York for the same reason; arguments have concluded, but a decision has not been made yet by the judge.

Bellefeuille was not immediately available for comment

Chicago passed ridesharing regulations back in 2014 that required, among other things, that commercial advertisements not be “displayed on the exterior or interior of a transportation network vehicle”

Vugo was forced to leave Chicago in 2015 and relocate to Minneapolis, when Bellefeuille learned that his company was operating illegally.

At the time, he said, “Chicago made my business illegal before we even started,” adding, “In my opinion, there’s absolutely no reason for interior vehicle advertising to be illegal in Chicago, especially considering they fully promote in-cab advertising, which is the same thing.”

The company claims that its patent-pending TripIntent algorithms use data like pickup points, destinations and routes of the trip to select ads that are most likely to resonate. Passengers can click on the ads that interest them on the tablet screen, and drivers collect a percentage of the advertising revenue.

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

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