Senators debated a broad bill Wednesday to not regulate Uber and other such taxicab-like companies, but focused on whether the state should require additional insurance coverage.
A Senate Transportation subcommittee took up a bill by senators Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, and Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, that would exclude Uber and similar operations from all regulation by the S.C. Public Service Commission. The commission in January halted Uber’s operations in the state.
The bill also addresses recordskeeping requirements, fare disclosures and anti-discrimination procedures. But the Senate panel focused on insurance. No votes were taken.
“Our concern – we just really want to make sure that the appropriate insurance is in place to protect the citizens of South Carolina,” a representative for State Farm in South Carolina and Georgia told subcommittee members. Uber says its drivers have $1 million in insurance coverage.
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San Francisco-based Uber began operating in South Carolina last July. It uses screened drivers and their personal vehicles to pick up customers by using a smart phone app. The driver turns on the app and those with access to it can summon a ride.
The service is in direct competition with licensed cab companies, which have criticized Uber as an example of unfair competition because it does not face requirements that traditional cab services must meet.
The insurance industry wants Uber to be responsible for coverage when a vehicle is used for commercial purposes, the State Farm representative said.
Uber favors the bill. Mandatory commercial insurance coverage for essentially part-time Uber carriers would doom the business model because drivers would not be able to afford the coverage, the company said. Besides, personal automobile insurance coverage is appropriate.
“This legislation will codify the ... safety procedures that we have already put in place internally and ensure a long-term home for us in the Palmetto State,” said Michael Black, Uber’s S.C. general manager.