Small business owners may already use ride-sharing apps instead of taxicabs to travel from place to place. But should your company use such apps for deliveries or for other business purposes?
MELT Pizza, a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia, plans to use Uber's ride-sharing service UberX to deliver woodfired pizzas to hungry customers. Dynamic Business reports that customers will get free delivery if they live within 3 kilometers of the store and spend more than $35.
But is using Uber for deliveries, or any other commercial purpose, legally risky?
Legal Status of Ride-Share Services
Uber and other ride-sharing apps seem to be built around supporting small businesses. But is it legal to use them for your business' needs?
Yes and no. Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and similar services have had mixed luck with legislators in various cities and states. According to San Francisco's KQED, some cities -- like New Orleans, Portland, and Miami -- have outright bans on Lyft and Uber. Still other states like California have moved to legitimize these ride services which are regulated separately from taxi services.
Depending on your business' location, UberX or other ride-share apps may not be legal for average riders, much less as a way to grow your business. Even MELT Pizza's use of ride-sharing apps is threatened by the Australian state of New South Wales' enforcement of passenger transport laws.
Even if a regulated service is legal for consumers, it isn't necessary always legal for business use. Like businesses being sued for using "personal" cable-TV accounts for commercial viewing, ride-share companies may not approve of using their services to boost your business.
Uber's legal terms include a prohibition against "commercially exploit[ing]" Uber's services "in any way," but it is unclear if this scope applies to using Uber for deliveries or other commercial purposes.
Say your business begins using UberX to make deliveries or to pick up clients. What happens if the driver is involved in an accident?
Uber has already found itself in legal hot water after a driver struck and killed a young girl in San Francisco, allegedly while the driver was using the UberX app. If an Uber driver making a delivery for your business has a similar accident, your company could be held liable for damages.
As Forbes discusses, the legal distinction between these ride-share drivers as independent contractors and employees/agents of your business is not a bright line.
Consider these legal quirks and consult a business attorney before adding ride-sharing services to your business plan.
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