Uber in Big Trouble in Florida

Uber has been successfully run out of yet another American metropolitan area. The networked transportation company will pull completely out of Broward County, Florida, (Fort Lauderdale) by the end of the month, The Sun-Sentinel newspaper reported.


“Broward County officials implemented one of the most onerous regulatory frameworks for ridesharing in the nation,” a statement from Uber reads. “We have no choice but to suspend operations on July 31. We hope the Board of County Commissioners will revisit the issue when they return from break and work with us to bring Uber back to Broward.”

$50 Billion Company Will Not Pay for $50 Background Check

Okay, so what were the onerous regulations Uber failed to comply with? Basically, Uber drivers would have to get a chauffer’s registration and undergo a fingerprint-based FBI criminal background. The requirements are no worse than those for dozens of other jobs in today’s marketplace; for example, truck drivers, school teachers, Little League coaches, etc.

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A fingerprint-based FBI background check costs around $50, or about the typical price of a ride in an Uber vehicle, according to a company called Fieldprint.com. It takes between five and 10 minutes to complete the check.

One would think that a company that is supposedly worth $50 billion would be able to afford a $50 background check for each of its drivers. Since each driver could conceivably bring in thousands of dollars in revenue, it would be well worth the investment. It would also be great publicity and good customer service to be able to reassure the public that the person who is driving the Uber car does not have a criminal record for, say, rape.

$50 Billion Company Will Not Pay for $64 Registration

Now if that wasn’t bad enough, a Broward County Chauffeur’s Registration costs $64, according to the county’s website. A person applying for one will also have to present a complete driving record. The cost of this varies from state to state, but it costs $16.25 in Florida. That means it costs around $85 to get the registration and $50 for the background check, a total cost of $135, which should be chump change to a company like Uber.

Persons that apply for the registration also have to pass an exam, be able to speak, read, and write in English, and have a good driving record. What’s so hard about finding individuals that pass those criteria? I imagine around 80% to 90% of the American population could pass.

If Uber does not want to bother with the hassle or expense of getting such credentials for its drivers, it could simply require them to present the credentials when they sign up. Uber could also set up a financing arrangement in which it pays for the registration and background check then takes the fees out of the driver’s first month of pay. It already has such an arrangement for persons that want to finance cars for Uber driving.

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One has to wonder if the real reason Uber is pulling out of Broward County was the state of Florida’s decision to declare an Uber driver an employee. The expense of treating all Uber drivers as employees might simply be too great for the company.

There is obviously a tremendous opportunity for Uber competitors like Lyft here. If one of them were to simply announce it would pay for the registration fee and background check for drivers, it would own Broward County. I have to wonder how good a business Uber really is when it drops an opportunity simply because of a fee.

City Threatens to Arrest Uber Drivers

Nor is Broward County the only Florida tourist destination trying to run Uber out of town. New Times reported that the city of Key West is planning to arrest Uber drivers.

The city is encouraging licensed cabbies to report Uber drivers to the cops, Key West spokeswoman Alyson Crean told New Times. Crean did not say what penalty Uber drivers would face, but they could be arrested. Like many American tourist towns, Key West has a well-established taxi monopoly that makes it impossible for anybody to get a cab license. No new taxi licenses have been issued in the island city for 20 years, since 1995, when Bill Clinton was in the White House and dial up Internet was the norm, according to New Times.

Perhaps Uber should just stay away from Florida. The state seems to be almost as much trouble for the service as France is. One also has to wonder if authorities in Florida are trying to head off the kind of anti-Uber violence we have seen in France.