Uber's ride-for-hire service creates Oklahoma City controversy

by Randy Ellis Modified: November 1, 2013 at 6:00 pm •  Published: October 31, 2013

Nairi Hourdajian, a spokeswoman for Uber, contends the company takes numerous steps to protect customers.

“We're partnering with drivers like you and me who will be driving their own cars,” she said. “All drivers pass Uber's rigorous screening process (but are not licensed as professional chauffeurs).”

She said Uber's screening process includes a stringent background check, driving history check, in-person interview and screening, a city knowledge exam and ongoing quality controls.

She also said Uber maintains insurance to protect customers beyond the insurance obtained by individual drivers, who are not considered to be Uber employees.

Capt. Dexter Nelson, spokesman for the Oklahoma City Police Department, said local city officials are expected to meet soon to decide what to do about Uber.

“We're trying to determine if they are operating lawfully,” Nelson said. “They think they are. We don't think they are.”

The transportation division of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates transportation services not regulated by city ordinances, “is currently investigating the service offered by Uber as regards Oklahoma law,” said Matt Skinner, spokesman for the commission.

“It is important that Oklahomans who hire a passenger service such as a limousine be sure the entity is operating legally and has the insurance needed to protect the passengers,” Skinner said. A list of passenger carriers who have commission authority and the insurance requirements can be found at www.occeweb.com/tr/TRLists.htm.

While regulators contemplate what to do about Uber, many customers have embraced the service which is active in several American cities.

“I am a huge fan,” said Brett Robinson, a local attorney and lobbyist who says he has used Uber transportation in Chicago, Dallas and Washington, D.C.

“I don't know if they're operating legally here or not,” Robinson said.

Robinson, who described the service as “easy to use” and “consumer friendly,” said his advice to regulators would be to change the regulations if Uber is out of compliance.

Lawsuits and regulatory battles are prevalent in many cities where Uber has been operating.

A huge battle has been going on in Dallas, where the interim city manager recently apologized for his role in a precipitating a crackdown on Uber in which undercover police officers targeted Uber drivers and issued about 60 citations. City prosecutors later dropped the charges.

The interim city manager and other city staffers were criticized for not seeking advice from the city council and for directing city attorneys to draft proposed ordinances aimed at regulating Uber that were similar to ordinances that had been drafted by a cab company attorney, according to Dallasnews.com.

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by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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