Uber allowed to operate in Palm Beach County with some regulations

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - Uber got the green light Monday from the Palm Beach County Commission, so it can now operate legally.

The commission voted in favor of a temporary agreement allowing Uber to operate with some regulations. The agreement will last through September.

It was a close vote, 4-3, in favor of the agreement.

Mayor Shelley Vana strongly voiced her concerns with moving forward saying that Broward County asked Palm Beach to hold off. She also compared this to prostitution saying people also like prostitution but we don't allow that.

The debate has centered on whether Uber is a vehicle for hire company or transportation network company. Transportation companies, like taxis, are regulated. The drivers have to go through a federal background check, and their cars are inspected. Insurance is also required.

So far, Uber has regulated itself. The company does its own background checks and has its own insurance. That's what sparked the outrage and tickets for Uber drivers. Jenn Strathman got an inside look at the crackdown in January. The county was writing tickets to Uber drivers and the parent company because the ride sharing company did not follow the same rules as taxi cabs.

Taxi cabs are very concerned about the temporary operating agreement. Some transportation companies questioned whether they would pay their fees when it's time for renewal since they feel now there is an unequal playing field.

In January, the Palm Beach County Commission agreed to move forward with a cease and desist until they could get Uber to the table to work out an agreement. Soon after that, the county and Uber came to an agreement that would allow Uber to operate legally. The new rules would require background checks including checking the drivers history.

The driver can't have more than three moving violations in a three year period, and no major violations like evading the police, reckless driving, or a suspended license among other things.

The background check would include criminal history and a check of the sex offender database. Any person convicted within the past seven years of DUI, drug or sexual offenses, fraud, use of a motor vehicle to commit a felony, or a crime involving property damage can't be an Uber driver.

Uber must also meet certain insurance requirements to protect passengers.

Insurance companies have fine print in their policies that typically limits driving your car for a fee and can cancel policies when it finds out you drive for one of these companies.

Progressive Insurance told the Consumer Watchdog it is looking for an insurance solution for these types of services since personal policies exclude coverage for the service.

An Uber representative spoke saying the ride-sharing app has decreased DUI rates, added jobs, and in the 270 cities where it operates no taxi cab company has gone out of business because of Uber.

Uber says it's not anti-regulation it just wants smart rules.

The state is also looking at regulating Uber, and state laws would pre-empt county rules.

Even state rules are being criticized by consumer advocates like the Consumer Federation of the Southeast. "These companies insist they are not the same as taxi and limousine companies, and therefore shouldn't be regulated the same way," said Walter Dartland, executive director of the Consumer Federation of the Southeast. "But they recruit drivers, they market for passengers who need immediate transportation, they dispatch drivers, and they charge passengers for rides. If that isn't the same as a taxicab or limousine company, then what is?"

Dartland launched a new website, UberNightmare,com, to inform consumers about issues related to TNC companies like Uber.

Uber spokesperson Kaitlin Durkosh said, "Today's step marks a victory for Palm Beach County riders and drivers. The County Commission has demonstrated to the rest of the state that it stands for innovation and supports choice and opportunity. We look forward to continuing to work with the Commission to find a long-term solution for ridesharing in Palm Beach County."

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