State regulatory board sides with Uber

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Uber and its drivers are probably doing something of a victory lap today now that news is out that the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation is siding with their right to do business in the state.

Drivers in both Tampa and St. Pete have been collecting tickets for operating against regulation. The problem has been most prevalent in Tampa where the county even bought billboard space cautioning users on the risks associated with riding in an under-insured for-hire vehicle clearly referencing ride share companies Uber and Lyft. Those companies offer nicer rides at cheaper rates through a much more convenient app. At the time of service, no cash is exchanged or payment rendered because that’s all handled through a secure wallet established through the app.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Thursday on the Insurance Regulation Office’s findings that Uber’s $1 million coverage meets the state’s requirements.

From the Tampa Bay Times:

In recent public meetings, PTC chairman Victor Crist and executive director Kyle Cockream have said they would defer to the state regarding insurance issues. Cockream forwarded a copy of Uber’s policy to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation for review.

Monte Stevens, the office’s deputy chief of staff, said in an email to Cockream that the policy is legally binding and provides coverage typical of taxis or other for-hire services. Stevens also said the $1 million liability limits are more than what is required of for-hire services.

“The policy appears to follow the typical business auto policies that are used by licensed and admitted carriers in Florida to provide coverage for commercial autos,” Stevens wrote. “The policy provides first-dollar coverage while the auto is being driven by the Uber driver and when the auto is providing the livery services as recorded through the Uber application.”

Stevens elaborated on the e-mail this week, saying Uber is permitted to do legally binding business in the state and that the policy covers passengers.

“As far as we’re concerned… it meets the requirements of the insurance code,” Stevens said.

The decision by the state regulatory body doesn’t necessarily mean the heat is off Uber. Hillsborough County’s PTC still isn’t convinced the issue has been laid to rest.

Cab companies have come before the PTC and other county commissioners complaining about Uber and Lyft since they entered the market. Some companies, like Yellow Cab, have made political contributions to local candidates. Whether that generosity will pay off is yet to be seen.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email