Mobile Commerce

San Francisco Slaps Business License Rule On Uber/Lyft Drivers

While cities and their local transportation authorities have been taking many blows from on-demand car service apps Uber and Lyft in the last few years, it seems some cities are starting to hit back with force.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, San Francisco has just enforced business regulations that would require drivers for Uber and Lyft to obtain business licenses within 30 days in order to continue to operate within the city limits. According to a letter the city’s Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector started mailing to drivers on Friday (April 15), the city has identified 37,000 drivers and has given them 30 days to obtain licenses. WSJ notes that, for businesses that earn less than $100,000, the license costs $91 a year.

“I take seriously my obligation to fairly implement San Francisco’s business regulation requirements,” San Francisco Treasurer Jose Cisneros said in a statement. As WSJ notes, the letter wasn’t prompted by a new law but by the time it took to identify the drivers, according to a spokeswoman for the department. The city of San Francisco spent nearly two years putting together this implementation of the existing business regulation.

It seems that California has become something of a battleground state for the startups, one of which (Uber) is valued at more than $60 billion. WSJ notes that, in San Jose, drivers for the companies are allowed to pick up passengers at the city’s airport only if they have a valid city business license. San Francisco poses a new level of threat to their business model, which relies on a large workforce of independent contractors, as it is one of their largest markets.

“Uber partners with entrepreneurial drivers, and as independent contractors, they are responsible for following appropriate local requirements,” a spokeswoman for Uber said in an email shared by WSJ.

And in its own email statement, a spokeswoman for Lyft told the outlet: “We have serious concerns with the city’s plan to collect and display Lyft drivers’ personal information in a publicly available database … People in San Francisco, who are choosing to drive with Lyft to help make ends meet, shouldn’t have to compromise their privacy in order to share a ride.”


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