Myrtle Beach now allows Uber drivers to operate

After almost a year of saying it was illegal for ride-sharing service Uber to operate in Myrtle Beach, officials recently began allowing them to pick up passengers in the city as long as drivers purchase a business license.

Twelve drivers have purchased business licenses as of Monday and now are operating the app-based car ride service legally in the city, city spokesman Mark Kruea said. The first business license was issued Feb. 27.

“The Uber drivers are providing a personal service with their personal vehicle, acting as independent contractors,” Kruea said. “The service falls somewhere in between a taxi and a limousine.”

Drivers also are required to apply for a chauffeur’s permit, which involves a background check.

“The [S.C. Public Service Commission’s] indecision on Uber's status, plus the idea that pending legislation may be forthcoming, has left local governments with few options for enforcement,” Kruea said. “Given that sort of uncertainty, requiring a business license for a personal chauffer service at least requires a background check for an Uber driver. That gets close to the limousine concept for Uber.”

The S.C. Public Service Commission in January approved an order that allows Uber's contract drivers to provide service until June 30, when it is believed state legislators will have passed a law defining how the business model can be regulated.

The commission began the process in June to hold a hearing that would determine if Uber is a passenger carrier. Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett has said that the company is not a transportation business, but is a technology business.

Other types of businesses considered a personal service in Myrtle Beach are hair, nail and skin care services, funeral services, and wedding planning services.

Drivers who are based in city limits must pay $145 on the first $2,000 gross receipts, plus $2.95 on each additional $1,000 made. Non-resident drivers pay $220 for a license on the first $2,000 in gross receipts, plus $4.45 on each additional $1,000 made.

Starting June 1, the rates will change. The base license fee for city residents will be $135, plus $2.90 on each additional $1,000 made. Non-residents will pay a base rate of $270 for a license plus $5.80 on each additional $1,000 made.

Police issued four citations to three uberX drivers in late July through “sting operations.” In March, two drivers also were cited for operating without proper licensing.

UberX, the low-cost wing of Uber Technologies Inc., allows those needing a ride to connect with local drivers at a price the company says is cheaper than those offered by taxicabs. Last July, uberX said drivers would be available in Myrtle Beach and three other S.C. cities – Charleston, Greenville and Columbia.

Myrtle Beach officials immediately responded saying that were uberX drivers to pick up passengers in city limits, they would be cited for operating without proper licensing. To operate in city limits, drivers would have needed a business license and a certificate of convenience and necessity, also called a medallion.

Uber has come under fire across the country in recent months, with the state of California suing Uber over it’s driver background checks and other allegations. Uber drivers across the country also have drawn negative attention to the company.

Charlotte had been set to consider regulations for Uber late last year, but tabled the proposed regulations in September, deciding to wait to see what the N.C. General Assembly does this year.

Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or on Twitter @TSN_mprabhu.

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