- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - The ride-sharing service Uber is operating illegally in Eugene, and drivers face a fine if they don’t apply for a taxi license, city officials say.

The warning was a result of a complaint from the area’s largest taxi company, Oregon Taxi, the Register-Guard (http://is.gd/QB30Dt) reported.

Uber is an online business that connects passengers, often using mobile apps, with drivers in non-commercial vehicles acting as independent contractors.

It has faced regulatory hurdles in many jurisdictions, but often city and state rules have been rewritten to accommodate an emerging group of web-based ride-sharing businesses.

Eugene doesn’t plan to search for Uber drivers, although it will respond to complaints, said a city agency spokeswoman, Laura Hammond.

The warning is designed to get Uber to work with city officials who “recognize that the code wasn’t really written with Uber in mind,” she said.

Oregon Taxi complained in July when Uber started doing business in Eugene. City lawyers concluded last month that Uber, although not a traditional taxi service, is required to obtain a license under the city’s “public passenger vehicle” regulations.

A city press release issued Thursday said staff members told the company on Sept. 16 that it must get a license. Uber has yet to apply.

Brooke Steger, the general manager of Uber Seattle, said in a written statement that the city’s code doesn’t account for what are called “transportation network companies.”

“Safety is Uber’s top priority,” the statement said. “All driver partners on the Uber platform have gone through a comprehensive criminal and driving record check, all vehicles have been inspected by a mechanic and all rides are insured at $1 million.” It said the company wants to work with the city.

Jay Mayernik, Oregon Taxi’s general manager, said he’s satisfied with the city’s response and wouldn’t object to negotiations between the city and Uber, so long as ride-sharing and taxi companies have to follow the same rules.

Officials in nearby Springfield said they have the same position on Uber as their counterparts in Eugene.

And regulators in both cities said that while they would respond to complaints, it would be difficult to fine Uber drivers because their private cars aren’t distinctly marked like taxis.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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