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San Francisco cabbies win one — Rideshare drivers must register

The licenses, which cost $91 annually, mark a major victory for the city’s traditional taxicab fleets, which have suffered revenue losses since ridesharing became popular.

Taxi drivers have complained, often loudly, that ridesharing services have an unfair advantage because they are not subject to the same safety, employment and taxation requirements as taxis.

San Francisco has an estimated 37,000 rideshare drivers, mostly with the Lyft and Uber companies.

Prospective passengers don’t have to hail vehicles on the street; ridesharing services are usually summoned using a special smartphone application with payments made electronically.

City Treasurer Jose Cisneros announced the license fee requirement Friday, saying drivers who work in the city more than seven days a week will have a year to obtain business licenses, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.

If all 37,000 rideshare drivers comply, the city could gain more than $3 million in revenue.

Uber and Lyft have long maintained that their drivers are independent contractors, not employees,.

But Uber said it would comply with the new rules, the newspaper said.

“Uber partners with entrepreneurial drivers and as independent contractors, they are responsible for following appropriate local requirements,” Uber spokeswoman Laura Zapata said.

But Lyft said it was opposed to the new rules.

“We have serious concerns with the city’s plan to collect and display Lyft drivers’ personal information in a publicly available database,” Lyft spokeswoman Chelsea Wilson said.

“People in San Francisco, who are choosing to drive with Lyft to help make ends meet, shouldn’t have to compromise their privacy in order to share a ride,” Wilson said.

Cisneros said the city would be sending letters to all rideshare drivers over the next three days informing them of the need to register and pay the $91 or face penalties.

“We have a very broad and comprehensive business registration requirement,” Ciseneros said.

“It’s very clearly spelled out on our website — the law here in San Francisco requires you to register your business with the city,” he said.

Uber and Lyft have both been in court in the past year to face lawsuits about the employment status of their drivers, the newspaper said.

Lyft offered $12.25 million to its drivers in January in exchange for not being forced to reclassify them as employees, but a federal judge in San Francisco blocked the offer as insufficient.

A similar lawsuit is pending against Uber.

In related news, Uber acknowledged that it had received government requests for information about 12 million of its riders, the newspaper said.

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