THE CAR-SHARING platform Turo will continue to be banned from listing cars for rent at Logan Airport, under a Supreme Judicial Court decision released Wednesday.
Turo is a private company that operates a website where car owners can offer their cars to renters, a platform for cars that is similar to Airbnb for homes. The Massachusetts Port Authority has since 2016 been trying to prevent Turo from operating at the airport without a written agreement. Massport has agreements with other airport car rental companies that include the payment of significant fees. But Turo resisted, arguing that it should not have to sign an agreement or pay fees, because it is not a car rental company. Massport sued Turo.
In January 2020, a Superior Court judge sided with Massport and ordered Turo to stop operating out of Logan. Turo stopped, but appealed the decision.
In a unanimous 24-page decision written by Justice Serge Georges, the court sided with Massport.
Turo spokesperson Steve Webb said in a statement, “We’re disappointed with the ruling, which comes at a time when people in Massachusetts are struggling to make ends meet financially and travelers are getting gouged by rental car companies as they take trips in the commonwealth.”
Jennifer Mehigan, a spokesperson for Massport, declined to comment, saying, “it is an ongoing legal matter.”
The ruling means Turo will not be able to restart Logan operations unless it reaches an agreement with Massport.
The court decision could also weigh into the calculations lawmakers are making as they consider whether and how to regulate Turo. Bills have been introduced for several years to regulate car-sharing, similar to the way lawmakers have written rules to govern other aspects of the gig economy, like ride-hailing services (Uber and Lyft) and room rental services (Airbnb).
In his ruling, Georges rejected Turo’s claim that it was simply allowing third parties to advertise cars on its website. Rather, he emphasized that Turo has taken an active role in facilitating those rentals, including at Logan Airport. Turo advertised the convenience of renting one of its cars at Logan. It offers users an array of support services like access to liability insurance, roadside assistance, and payment processing. It also sets standards and policies that must be met in its transactions, covering things like cleaning and cancellations.
“The record reflects that Turo serves a dual role as both the publisher of its users’ third party listings and the facilitator of the rental transactions themselves, and in particular the rental transactions that occur on Massport’s Logan Airport property,” Georges wrote.
The decision concludes, “Turo’s broadcasting of airport handoffs along with its facilitation of these transactions when it knew or had reason to know that those actions offended Massport’s rules and regulations more than supports the judge’s conclusion that Turo actively participated in and substantially assisted the ongoing trespass of its hosts at Logan Airport.”