Columbia, SC (WACH) - There's an app for just about everything. And now UBER X has arrived in Columbia, providing transportation at the touch of a button.
Since its launch, people in the Midlands have been using the service to get around town.
However, while the concept behind the app may seem harmless to users, it has some local businesses worried about safety.
"UBER is an unlicensed, unregulated, basically a gypsy cab company that opened in Columbia without following any rules of the office of regulatory staff,â?? said Dallas Ball, attorney for Checker Yellow Cab in Cayce. "They have not applied with any of the city of Columbia's requirements to be a taxi."
UBER says it puts drivers through "rigorous background checks", and provides "end to end" insurance, but Ball says the newly launched business is a couple of steps short of meeting the requirements to operate in Columbia.
He adds that while UBER's website says it's a ride-sharing service, he disagrees with the company's claims that it is only being used to connect people to drivers.
"They get paid for that and then go pick up the next person, take them to the destination and then get paid for that, and then on and on it goes," said Ball. "They're not ride-sharing anywhere, the sole purpose for being on the app and in the car is to go pick up passengers for hire and make money."
What UBER is doing could potentially be against the law in South Carolina.
"If someone is transporting passengers in a motor vehicle, for compensation or with the state over the states improved roads, then there are certain regulatory requirements that should be met if it's providing that service outside the city limits. Inside the city limits it's up to the city," said Dukes Scott, executive director at the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff.
"The bottom line is we've received overwhelmingly positive support from residents and visitors in South Carolina who are excited for a new, convenient way to move around their cities," said UBER spokesman Taylor Bennett. "Any attempt to restrict consumer choice and limit economic opportunity does nothing but hurt the riders who already rely on UBER for safe, reliable transportation and drivers who are taking advantage of the increased earning potential and flexibility." Bennett adds that UBER looks forward to continuing to provide the safest, most reliable ride on the road, which Ball says is totally fine, if they comply with state regulations.
"There's nothing from keeping UBER from coming to Columbia. There's no anti-competitiveness measure in place. If UBER wants to open in Columbia, they're certainly entitled to do that," said Ball. "There's a lot of competition in this business, so all they have to do is get the ORS licensing, PS seal to approve them and go to the city of Columbia to comply with the ordinances and they're in business."
A hearing is scheduled for August 26 with the Public Service Commission to determine the status of UBER in Columbia.
Dallas Ball also plans to meet with Columbia mayor, Steve Benjamin, and police chief, Skip Holbrook, this week.
WACH Fox will continue to follow this story and update you with information as it becomes available.