On Tuesday, the Palm Beach County commission decided to backtrack on regulating Uber, and even decided to deregulated the taxi cab industry from Level-2 background checks.
Cab drivers in Palm Beach are required to under go fingerprint as well as state and FBI background checks. The county was considering putting Uber under the same regulations, but the ride-sharing company threatened to stop operating in the county if that happened.
In an effort to avoid losing Uber, and the public backlash that would come with it, commissioners on Tuesday decide to deregulate both industries. But not all are happy about this.
Particularly the cab industry, who say the decision remains a safety issue.
"Without some basic regulations, Uber will continue to put their own drivers in conflict with their personal auto policies and as a result each driver at serious risk related to insurance and liability for accidents, including third parties," Roger Chapin, a board member with the Florida Taxicab Association, tells New Times.
Neil Schiller, an attorney representing Yellow Cab, expressed the same sentiment.
"With the decision today, we're extremely disappointed," Schiller told reporters following the commission meeting Tuesday. "We feel that public safety has taken a hit. We believe that a Level-2 background check is what the taxi industry has been subjected to for the last few months is the safest option. We still believe that it is the safest option for the residents of Palm Beach County."
Uber was faced with similar regulations in Broward, but left town after commissioners there initially refused to loosen up those regulations. Uber called the regulations "onerous," and ceased operations in July. Broward recently agreed to revisit the regulations in order to get Uber to return.
Yet even the company Uber uses to perform background checks, Hireease, says on their website that fingerprinting might be the safest way to perform checks on potential drivers.
And this seems to be the sticking point for the cab industry, even with the county deregulating everyone.
"Deregulation of market barriers such as fares and access to permits should be on the table and the same for the entire industry," Chapin says. "However, basic regulations pertaining to background checks and insurance should remain for the benefit of the traveling public and the drivers themselves.”
The background check issue has recently made news in California, after San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said this week that Uber's background checks have led to multiple criminals falling through the cracks to become Uber drivers.
Uber's background check process is so flawed, Gascon says, that it has hired on 22 convicted criminals driving in Los Angeles and San Francisco.— including murderers and rapists.
"A commissioner asked an Uber driver who spoke claiming she picked up the same people all the time 'how is that possible,' and the Uber driver said they new the customers' schedules," a Palm Beach cab driver, Jennifer Condie, tells New Times. "Thats what happened to the 13 year old school girl who got the same Uber driver 20 times."
In her comments, Condie is referencing a thirteen-year old Virginia girl who sexually assaulted by an Uber driver. The girl and her family is now suing Uber for $2 million.
Palm Beach Commissioners are scheduled to revisit the deregulation issue on September 22. For now, the commissioners have agreed to have fingerprint background checks eliminated for both Uber and the cab industry, and are giving both the option to have the county perform background checks for them.