Many of the 37,000 or so San Francisco Uber and Lyft drivers who learned last week that they were required to have a business license to ply their trade in the city have another shock in store when they go to comply with the regulations, as they're also getting hit with hundreds of dollars in penalties and fees.
As reported last week, SF Uber and Lyft drivers got a letter from the city last week telling them that since they're all independent contractors, drivers who work more than seven days a year are legally required to have a San Francisco business license.
As Caleb reported last week, the licenses "cost $91 each, annually, and if every driver were to register — an outcome that is highly unlikely, as enforcement may prove difficult and the number of drivers who currently operate could differ from that 37,000 estimate — the city would generate $3.37 million a year."
It might be time to up that figure, however, as drivers who are heading out to get their licenses are now being told that they're also on the hook for an additional $155 in fees and penalties for every year they worked without the license, CBS 5 reports.
According to driver Michael Sicard, who spoke with CBS 5, “Uber and Lyft said that this is a new rule,” and that he'd "even emailed inquiries asking if there are any other permits or licenses that I’ll need and they said no.”
Lyft maintains to CBS 5 that the rule is new, saying that “We do not believe the city had made a decision about how to treat ride-sharing drivers for business license purposes until very recently.”
But the rule isn't new, City Treasurer Jose Cisneros emphasized last week, saying that “This has been a law that has been around for many years. It’s very clearly spelled out on our website — the law here in San Francisco requires you to register your business with the city."
"If they missed that requirement, they are still obligated to do that.”
CBS 5 reports that when Sicard "contacted [sic] there Treasurer’s office, he was told the only new thing was is that Uber and Lyft finally handed over a list of all their drivers to city officials." "Handed over" might be a bit vague, however, as according to a press release from the Treasurer's Office, it took "two years of enforcement work, including multiple requests for information and subpoenas to get sufficient data about business operations from TNC’s domiciled in San Francisco."
According to the Chron, "Lyft said it had complied with the Treasurer’s request for tax data on all its drivers in 2014 and 2015, as it was legally obligated to do," and while Uber declined to comment, in an email to drivers they said that "We are also unsure as to how the treasurer's office obtained addresses for Uber drivers and we are looking into how that could have happened."
But however it happened, the genie is out of the bottle now, as even Uber is now saying (via prepared statement) that “As independent contractors, drivers are responsible to follow appropriate local laws.” And that includes Sicard, who needs to pony up more than $500 by May 15 to remain in compliance...or not.
"I don’t have that money and, without the business license, won’t be able to drive to make ends meet,” Sicard tells CBS 5. “So my car will get repossessed and I’ll go into bankruptcy."