Is Uber Cab Legal in North Carolina?

Short answer: Probably, yes.  The services have faced backlash in some markets from existing taxi and limousine services, with accusations that they are operating an illegal taxi operation, but they are not the same as a taxi service, for one thing, they don’t pick up random people off the street.   You can’t hail an Uber cab, unless you use a smart phone to do it. What is Uber Cab?  Uber runs as a very clever smart phone app.  You download the app, enter your credit card information, and request a ride.  Uber is essentially a fairly sophisticated dispatch service.  Uber notifies the nearest available driver, who accepts or declines your request.  The app uses GPS maps showing driver and passengers, and an estimate of how far away each is.  You will see a photo of your driver and can watch them approach on your GPS map.  You get in the car and take the ride.  The fare is processed through your phone and credit card.  No cash is exchanged and there is no tipping. The state General Assembly last year passed legislation allowing the company to begin operating in North Carolina.  The company's lobbyists got a clause inserted into an omnibus regulatory reform bill (see section 12.1.a[i]) that contained a section called "Regulation of Digital Dispatching Services." It describes how companies like Uber do business and specifically prohibits cities from imposing regulations on them.  (Though that may change, because it is contrary to the nature of government to ignore a marketplace.)  If you are a driver for Uber Cab, and you are charged with a violation of city or county ordinance, call us 828-258-0076, or after hours at 828-393-3000 for a consultation. Uber has created a marketplace for drivers and passengers to agree on an exchange of money for service in a way that is new.  You should be aware that Uber uses “surge pricing” when demand is high and supply is limited in real time, so at peak times you pay up to 6x normal fees.  Adam Smith would be proud.  You are warned on the app whenever surge pricing is in effect.  But some consumers have still complained of price-gouging, usually when they sober up and notice the bill the next morning. Uber signs up drivers only after conducting background checks and reviews of driving records.  They verify that the driver has a valid license, insurance, and a newer model car.  Uber also uses a two way rating system, so bad drivers and bad passengers are quickly weeded out.  Drivers are paid by electronic deposit on a weekly basis.  The underlying premise of the Uber Cab business model seems to be that serial killers don’t use I-phones.  (That’s a joke, Uber.)   So what happens if there is a wreck with an Uber cab?  We don’t really know yet.  Many automobile insurance policies specifically do not cover wrecks that occur if you are using your car in a commercial “for hire” service.  So is the Uber driver personally responsible for damages?   Maybe.  The Uber company explains on the website that they carry a commercial policy for 1 million dollars that covers collisions during a trip, but it’s so new, to my knowledge it hasn’t been tested yet in North Carolina.   If you are injured in a wreck with an Uber Cab, call us after hours at 828-393-3000 for a consultation.     [i] SECTION 12.1.(b)   G.S. 160A-304 is amended by adding a new subsection to read: (c)Nothing in this Chapter authorizes a city to adopt an ordinance doing any of the following: (1)  Requiring licensing or regulation of digital dispatching services for prearranged transportation services for hire connected with vehicles operated for hire in the city  if the business providing the digital dispatching services does not own or operate the vehicles for hire in the city. (2)  Setting a minimum rate or minimum increment of time used to calculate a rate for prearranged transportation services for hire. (3)  Requiring an operator to use a particular formula or method to calculate rates charged. (4)  Setting a minimum waiting period between requesting prearranged  transportation services and the provision of those  transportation  services when the prearranged transportation services are digitally dispatched. (5)  Requiring a final destination to be set at the time of requesting prearranged transportation services through digital dispatching services. (6)  Requiring or prohibiting taxi franchises or taxi operators from contracting with a person in the business of digital dispatching services for prearranged transportation services for hire.