California D.A.'s say Uber & Lyft represent a "continuing threat" to the public

Kyle Cockream, the executive director of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, appeared a bit perturbed last week after the Tampa Bay Partnership neglected to contact him while inviting representatives from ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft to a transportation summit in St. Petersburg.

The PTC says drivers for those companies are not in compliance with their regulator agency, and PTC agents have issued numerous citations to Uber and Lyft drivers since they began operating in Tampa this spring. Although Cockream has since been in negotiations with representatives from the two companies over the past few months, nothing concrete has resulted from those discussions in terms of them coming into compliance.

The biggest issues here in Tampa and nationally with the ride-sharing companies concern their insurance policies and background checks, issues that state Senator Jeff Brandes brushed aside in a panel discussion at last week's transit summit.

But in California, they're not brushing those issues aside. Last Thursday the District Attorneys in both Los Angeles and San Francisco wrote a scathing letter to representatives of Uber, Lyft and Sidecar (a third ride-sharing company that is not operating in the Tampa Bay area), accusing them of not being truthful about the level of their background checks.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports,"The district attorneys told all three companies that they misled customers by claiming their background checks of drivers screen out anyone who has committed driving violations, including DUIs, as well as sexual assault and other criminal offenses. The district attorneys say that’s patently untrue."

The two D.A. offices conducted a joint investigation into the three companies and found a number of practices that violate California law, calling them “a continuing threat to consumers and the public.”

The other major issue that regulators have taken issue with the ride-sharing companies is their insurance policies. At the last PTC meeting, Cockream told board members that he had requested that the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation look at the policy that Uber's commercial speciality insurer, James River Insurance Company.

Two weeks ago Monte Stevens, Deputy Chief of Staff at the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, responded to Cockream, and told him "We do not know and express no opinion whether or not this policy, when combined with a personal auto policy of the driver, would provide the coverage required under the Florida Financial Responsibility Law."

Stevens went on to say that such a determination resides with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV). But a spokesman for the DHSMV told CL on Monday that there has been no request by any entities in the state to research the James River Insurance Company. 

The PTC's Kyle Cockream did not respond for our request for comment.

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