Earlier this month UberX, Uber's rideshare service, launched in four cities in South Carolina. Residents of Charleston, Greenville, Columbia, and Myrtle Beach are free to download Uber's app and request a ride from a driver using his or her own vehicle. However, police across South Carolina are planning on taking action against UberX drivers, who they believe are violating regulations.
According to the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff, Uber is illegally operating in the Palmetto State without state or local business licenses.
The Nerve, a project of the South Carolina Policy Council, reported that police officers in Greenville and Columbia could issue UberX drivers warnings and citations at their discretion.
Myrtle Beach officials claim that Uber is not licensed to work in the city, and Myrtle Beach police have said that they plan to cite UberX drivers for operating without a business license, which Myrtle Beach officials claim each driver needs. Uber believes that it does not need a business license because it is connecting passengers and drivers via its app and not providing rides.
From WPDE NewsChannel 15:
So why doesn't Uber just get a business license? Taylor Bennett, an Uber spokesperson said they don't think they need one.
He said Uber is a technology company that connects drivers and riders through an app. Because they don't actually provide the ride, they say they don't need a business license.
As for the city's crackdown, Uber argued the city is limiting competition and hurting residents in the long run.
"What Uber provides is economic opportunity for drivers to make a living, to make some extra cash, to start their own business and to take it away they're taking jobs away from cities. It's taking opportunity away from drivers," Benett [sic] explained.
It's a shame that police in Myrtle Beach are planning on dedicating time and resources to citing UberX drivers when the city has a violent crime rate that has been historically much higher than the U.S. average. Don't the police in Myrtle Beach have anything better to do than pursuing drivers willing to give a ride to consenting customers?
In Charleston, police are reportedly planning on sting operations. Undercover police will be handing out warnings to UberX drivers before eventually "handing them citations with a maximum fine of $1,049," according to The Post and Courier. Uber plans to pay all of the fines issued to UberX drivers.
Similar sting operations targeting ridesharing company Lyft took place earlier this year in Miami.
Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett, who also commented on the news from Myrtle Beach, said that law enforcement discouraging UberX drivers from operating is the same as discouraging entrepreneurship:
"Any effort by law enforcement to discourage drivers from partnering with Uber is the equivalent of discouraging people from pursuing entrepreneurship, making a living, and contributing to the economy," Bennett said. "Instead of listening to taxi companies complain about competition, authorities should listen to the people of Charleston who have embraced more choice and greater access to opportunity."
Rather than trying to enforce regulations that cannot keep up with the changes in technology that allow Uber to function South Carolinian officials and police should perhaps concern themselves with actual nefarious behaviors and not passengers using an app to find a driver.