Uber, the app company that connects people with private car drivers at the tap of a button, is in violation of Palm Beach County's vehicle-for-hire rules, officials say. And if an Uber driver happens to get caught doing business in the county, he or she is going face big fines.
The penalties include a $500 fee and having their car impounded by the county.
Uber is basically an app with which you can request a private car with driver, then name your price. You can also rate the driver. This service has upended the traditional taxicab business in big cities where it has become popular.
But, county officials say, cabdrivers and other services that take people around town must pass inspections twice a year as well as undergo background checks and have additional insurance -- something local cabdrivers were concerned about when Uber first started making plans to expand into Palm Beach.
The problem is, ridesharing services have been widely unregulated, and personal auto insurance doesn't cover commercial drivers.
Some cabdrivers New Times has spoken to cite rumors that Uber has specifically told its drivers not to get insurance.
"It's decimating the cab industry," one cabbie, who would identify himself only as Joe, told New Times. "They're bringing in regular people and telling them to operate as cabbies and not providing them with insurance. It basically fucks up their business plans. But if you have a passenger and he gets injured in an accident, where do they file a claim?"
This is a concern for county officials as well, who say that Uber and its drivers are not licensed to operate in the county.
"Uber, right now, they are operating illegally in Palm Beach County," Eugene Reavis, manager of the county's Consumer Affairs Division told the Palm Beach Post. "They just seem to want to bypass the rules and regulations."
For its part, Uber says the company doesn't own the vehicles or employ drivers but only links them to people with the Uber app.
Uber also say its driver partners have to pass a rigorous screening as well as a background and driver history check.
Local cabdrivers remain concerned and skeptical.
Cabdriver Jennifer Condie, who operates out of Palm Beach, expressed her trepidation over the company's UberX app. She claims Uber asks drivers not to get commercial insurance.
"UberX has regular passenger insurance, taking 20 percent from the driver," Condie told New Times. "But they basically tell drivers not to get insurance, to put it on your personal insurance. But you can't put others on your insurance."
However, Uber says they do cover drivers and passengers under the company's own commercial insurance policy, according to what a company spokesman told the Palm Beach Post.
As for the threat of penalties from county officials, Uber says it will pick up costs for drivers who are caught and cited.