South Carolinians depending on the ride-sharing service Uber to get around will have to find another means of transportation for a while. State regulators dropped the hammer on the company to cease operations statewide due to questions regarding the service’s legal permission to do business there. The South Carolina Public Service Commission believes Uber has been operating illegally in the state since July 2014. And, the company’s recent negative attention over passenger safety, least of which was about auto insurance coverage, has not helped their situation.
The shutdown reportedly came as a total shock to the San Francisco-based company, especially since there was apparently a close relationship between Uber and state regulators. But, given the fact that the company may have been operating under the radar in four South Carolina cities – Columbia, Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and Greenville – as well as serious allegations involving two Uber drivers in Chicago and another in New Delhi, India for sexually assaulting female passengers, the ride-service’s legal troubles could be just beginning.
Since Uber’s rapid popularity growth last year there have been a number of reputational ups and downs. Valued at an estimated $40 billion in its latest fundraising, Uber has drawn additional anger in many parts of the United States and other countries worldwide, where it does business, by threatening to open operations in often tightly controlled and licensed taxi markets. Uber drivers are known for under-cutting the fares of normal cabs and supposedly make more money than their taxi counterparts, although the exact amount is a matter of controversy.
Furthermore, the service’s use of smartphones allows the booking a ride to be a great deal easier for potential customers. And, with the company’s new carpooling service in New York City, regular cab drivers can expect to be hit hard in the pocketbook, as fares are expected to go even lower.
But, more downs could be about to hit Uber, from future lawsuits to shutdowns overseas. For example, prosecutors in Los Angeles and San Francisco have sued the company for misleading customers about its extensive background checks of the countless drivers participating in the worldwide program. As a result of the danger presented by several drivers accused of sexual assault in the U.S. and India, there is increased scrutiny of rider safety issues. The New Delhi operations have been suspended, in response to the possible threat – while the two Chicago incidents remain under investigation.
Needless to say, Uber’s legal issues have become a major concern. But, the company isn’t giving up or slowing down. They claim to have challenged the order to cease and desist in South Carolina and continue to be committed to providing the state’s residents with greater opportunity and choice. As proof of that commitment, they’ve added the use of biometric scans to improve and facilitate driver background checks in an effort to ensure more passenger confidence and safety.
Whether Uber’s legal issues in South Carolina are solved, allowing the company to get back to business as usual in the four cities in which they were operating, is entirely up to the state’s regulatory commission.
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Have you used Uber’s ride-sharing service and, if so, did you feel safe? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.