- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - The city of Eugene has ordered the Uber ride-sharing company to cease operations or be fined, while the City Council looks into changing taxi regulations.

Uber start-ups have led to clashes with municipal regulators in Eugene and elsewhere in the country who say the online ride-sharing business may not be a traditional taxicab company but it comes under the laws governing public transport.

Taxi companies agree, saying their trade is being unfairly undercut.

Uber argues that the rules don’t apply to its business because its drivers are independent contractors. Residents who download the Uber smartphone app can hail a ride from another resident driving his or her private vehicle. The rides are metered, and Uber gets 20 percent of the fare.

“Rather than taking a stance against innovation and protecting the status quo, the city of Eugene should stand with riders and drivers who are already turning to Uber as a safe, reliable way to move around their city,” an Uber statement said Wednesday.

Uber began Eugene operations in July and has gotten four email warnings, the Register-Guard (https://is.gd/td4KHV) reported.

Last week, the city sent a notice of violation to the company’s Seattle office, the first step in the enforcement process.

Laura Hammond, a spokeswoman for the city’s licensing agency, said Eugene could impose fines on Uber at any time but hasn’t done so yet.

Earlier this month, the city issued a public warning to Uber drivers that they could be fined, but it has not taken action against them.

The city’s licensing requirements for the company and its drivers seek to ensure that taxi vehicles are safe, insured and easily identifiable, and that drivers don’t have criminal backgrounds.

Uber says it inspects and insures vehicles and conducts background checks on drivers,

The City Council is scheduled to discuss whether to change public passenger regulations at its Nov. 19 meeting.

“We understand that Uber is going to be part of that conversation, for sure,” Hammond said.

A coalition of 13 of the 15 taxi companies licensed to operate in the Eugene-Springfield area says the group is open to regulations to put Uber on a legal footing, as long as the rules are fair to the ride-sharing service and taxi companies.

Uber is facing a similar situation in Salem, where it’s also been operating since July. In Portland, the company has asked a city board to change the rules to allow it to operate.

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

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