Three of the nation’s largest food delivery companies are suing New York City over a limit on fees it put in place during the pandemic to protect restaurants devastated by the forced closure of their dining rooms.
The city has continued to extend those caps even as vaccinations allow more indoor dining which, according to the companies, cost them millions of dollars over the summer.
In the suit filed late Thursday the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats call the fee caps government overreach. The companies say they were “instrumental in keeping restaurants afloat and food industry workers employed” after investing millions of dollars in relief for those businesses.
They are filing for an injunction that would prevent the city from enforcing an extension on the fee caps adopted in August.
The companies are seeking unspecified monetary damages as well as a jury trial.
New York Law Department spokesman Nicholas Paolucci said in an email that the city’s initiative is legally sound and will be defended in court.
The city of New York first enacted the price cap in May 2020 in response to the pandemic, limiting the rate that third-party platforms could charge restaurants at 15% of an online order for delivery services, and 5% for all other services, including marketing.
Last month, New York City Council passed a handful of bills it said would help small restaurants, like prohibiting some third-party delivery service charges and mandating that their phone numbers are listed on those delivery sites.
It also pushed forward an extension on the fee caps that would not expire until at least early next year.
Food delivery services, Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats among them, that experienced explosive growth during the pandemic are increasingly clashing with local governments who say restaurants and consumers are getting hit with exorbitant fees and high costs.
Last month Chicago officials accused DoorDash and Grubhub of harming the city’s restaurants and their customers by charging high fees and through other deceptive practices. Delivery companies have been the target of legal authorities in other cities and states before, but those efforts have targeted specific policies compared to Chicago’s attack on numerous elements of the companies’ operations. The companies called Chicago’s lawsuits baseless.
San Francisco’s district attorney has accused delivery companies of violating California law by classifying drivers as contractors. And Washington, D.C., reached a settlement with DoorDash in 2019 after alleging the company misled customers about how much drivers received in tips.
The Massachusetts attorney general’s office in July filed a lawsuit accusing Grubhub of charging restaurants illegally high fees during the pandemic. The state had capped fees for much of 2020.
In the lawsuit filed late Thursday, Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats argue that New York city has continually pushed back the expiration date of the price caps and that now there’s no date at all, making them permanent. They also claim that the law has cost them “hundreds of millions of dollars” through July.
“The ordinance is unconstitutional because, among other things, it interferes with freely negotiated contracts between platforms and restaurants by changing and dictating the economic terms on which a dynamic industry operates,” the lawsuit states.
Food delivery companies, despite soaring revenues, have delivered mixed economic results even as they were transformed into a critical service during the pandemic.
Orders handled by DoorDash reached unprecedented levels during its most recent quarter and while revenue growth slowed from the height of the pandemic, the company said last month that sales were still up an astounding 83%, to $1.24 billion.
Yet the company lost $102 million. Start-ups have to invest large sums to grow and delivery start-ups say that has grown worse as they are forced to spend more to lure new drivers as infections rise. DoorDash said that fee caps cost it $26 million during the most recent three-month reporting period.
In a prepared statement Friday, DoorDash said putting caps on fees can lead to higher prices for customers and hurt drivers if rising prices reduce orders overall.
“Imposing permanent price controls is an unprecedented and dangerous overreach by the government and will limit the options small businesses rely on to compete in an increasingly competitive market,” the company said.
DoorDash has already filed suit to block a cap on fees put into effect by San Francisco.
Google illustrations has just upped the tech giant’s game
If you’re not keen on placing your personal picture on your Google profile, or even if you find it difficult to find a picture that represents who you are, the search giant just found the perfect solution for you.
Google has recently published a number of images under the name Google Illustrations, providing a wide variety of pictures representing animals, technology, and even space figures.
“The new library of illustrations indicates that Google is taking a different approach from avatars like Snap’s Bitmoji or Microsoft’s Xbox avatars, which can let you make stylized representations of what you look like,” explained The Verge.
Instead, Google illustrations offer different categories of objects and places to use for your avatar.
Before your serotonin levels spike up, you should note that the illustrations are only available for Android users, according to Google. However, the tech giant is currently “working on” providing the illustrations to iOS users.
The collection of illustrations available will also witness an expansion soon. In case none of the available avatars suit your liking, check back when Google welcomes more images.
Brave launches a non-tracking video call feature
Brave Software, a privacy and security-based software firm is welcoming a video conference feature under the name “Brave Talk’, emphasizing a privacy-conscious video chat option embedded into its own browser.
Through clicking on the camera icon or by visiting the page talk.brave.com, users of the Brave browser can enjoy a non-tracking video call option and even invite participants who do not have the particular browser built in their devices.
Brave, which is one of the Chromium-based browsers competing to become an alternative window to the web, is now vying to join the video conferencing space next to platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft teams. However, unlike other video calling apps, Brave is placing privacy as the number one priority.
Founded in 2016, the company prides itself with its privacy-conscious tools. The new non-tracking video call feature uses an open-source called ‘Jitsi as a Service.” Given that the source can be used directly in Brave, users won’t have to install any apps or software that can potentially compromise their devices.
This is the main differentiator between Brave and platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams or Skype, who all have the power to monitor your calls.
“Brave Talk users can enable multiple layers of encryption on calls, so an eavesdropper cannot listen in on users’ calls, and our servers don’t save metadata, so calls, images, and activities are never recorded or shared without user consent.” The company explained according to ZDNet.
The Brave Talk feature is offered free of charge for one-on-one video conferences.
The new option also includes video group watch, livestreaming directly from YouTube, and unlimited call times.
However, a paid version does exist, allowing for even more benefits such as team calls with three or more users, having the ability to record calls, mute other users and enter a passcode to join a video call.
The paid version costs $7 a month for all international users, but the Chromium browser-based Brave has plans to launch the free version of Brave Talk for all Android and iOS users.
NBCU Warns YouTube TV Subscribers Could Be Blacked Out
YouTube said it has been unable to so far reach a new carriage agreement with NBCUniversal. The current contract expires on 30 September. If no new deal is struck by then, NBCUniversal content, such as Sunday Night Football, Jimmy Fallon or Law and Order SVU, will no longer be carried by Youtube TV.
NBCUniversal is warning YouTube TV subscribers that they are in danger of losing 14 channels from their streaming lineup if Google and NBCUniversal are unable to come to an agreement on carriage agreement terms.
If you are a YouTube TV subscriber, you may lose NBC, Bravo, CNBC, E!, Golf Channel, MSNBC, Oxygen, SYFY, Telemundo, The Olympic Channel, Universal Kids, Universo, and USA Network.
Google said that if it gets equitable terms, it will renew its agreement with NBCU. Otherwise, subscribers will get a discount for the duration of a blackout, which could begin Thursday.
“If we are unable to reach a deal by Thursday, the NBCU lineup of channels will no longer be available on YouTube TV and we will decrease our monthly price by $10, from $64.99 to $54.99 (while this content remains off our platform),” Google said.
It added: “You can sign up for NBC’s own direct-to-consumer streaming service, Peacock, which they offer for $4.99/month to continue watching NBCU content, such as Sunday Night Football.”
In a statement, NBCU said it is seeking fair rates from Google for YouTube TV.
“Unfortunately, Google is refusing to make a deal at these fair rates and is willing to withhold entertainment, news and sports programming from their paying customers,” NBCU said.
“NBCUniversal feels a responsibility to inform our fans that they are at risk of losing their favorite shows if Google continues with their demands.”
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