Laws for Uber, taxi drivers vary in Ohio

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A former Uber driver accused of committing a felony was in court Thursday prompting Cleveland 19 to get answers on state and local laws governing ride sharing and taxi services.

Brandon Franklin was given a $50,000 bond and a restraining order was issued against him, as he was formally charged with sexual battery, a third-degree felony. Franklin is accused of sexually assaulting a 22-year-old female passenger at her Akron area home after giving her a ride through the Uber ride sharing service.

Uber spokesperson Kayla Whaling confirmed to Cleveland 19 that Franklin has been "permanently removed" from the Uber app, and that the company had received no similar complaints about Franklin previously.

"What's been described here is incredibly upsetting, and once we became aware of the allegations we removed this driver's access permanently from the app," said Whaling.

Whaling told Cleveland 19 that in Franklin's case specifically, Uber worked with the Akron Police Department. In general, the company works with law enforcement and has "technology and information" that can aid authorities, she said.

"If an allegation like this does occur, we would be able to provide specific information to police that would aid them in their investigation," said Whaling. "There's no anonymous trips with Uber."

Uber's policy is to background check their drivers, and it is Ohio state law. A law that supersedes any and all local ordinances attempting to regulate ride sharing services.

The state law requires ride sharing services to do background checks, but does not require those companies to turn background checks over to the state.

The process is much different that the regulations on taxicabs, which can vary from city to city in Ohio. In cities like Cleveland and Akron, taxi drivers have to do things like submit applications, get criminal background checks, fingerprinted, and character references before being allowed to drive a taxi.

When Cleveland 19 asked Whaling why it is acceptable for Uber drivers to have less regulation than taxi drivers, she answered by stressing the company follows all state and local laws.

Cleveland 19 also reached out to the Public Utilities Commission to get answers on why there are different regulations for seemingly similar industries, a media representative emailed Cleveland 19 late Thursday afternoon saying that the state requires companies like Uber to register with the state each year and pay a $5,000 fee. Individual drivers do not have to register with the state.

The PUCO representative did not answer Cleveland 19's question on why seemingly similar industries are regulated so differently.

PUCO did provide Cleveland 19 with a list of ride sharing companies registered with the state, and Lyft  and Uber are on that list.

For more on Uber's background checks and safety tips, click or tap here.

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