Who's Watching Uber?

Just who's keeping an eye on Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and the other rideshare companies? And if you've got a problem, who's going to listen?

In mid-November, 2013, the California Public Utilities Commission assumed control of what it calls "transportation network companies." 

The CPUC is the state's utility watchdog -- the agency charged with regulating privately owned electric, natural gas, telecommunications and water companies. But it also oversees railroads, rail transit and passenger transportation companies.

The CPUC is made up of five commissioners who are appointed by the governor but also must be confirmed by the California State Senate. They serve staggered six-year terms, with no term limits.

Commission President Michael R. Peevey: The current president's term expires this year. Peevey  is serving his second term, having been first appointed to the CPUC in 2002 by Gov. Gray Davis and again in 2008 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Before joining the CPUC, he held senior executive positions with Edison International, Southern California Edison and NewEnergy, Inc.

Peevey has Southern California connections -- his wife, Carol J. Liu, served three terms in the State legislature representing 43rd Assembly District (Burbank, Glendale, La Canada-Flintridge, La Crescenta-Montrose and adjacent parts of Los Angeles.) In 2008, she was elected to the State Senate, representing the 25st Senate District, which includes Glendale, Altadena, South Pasadena, San Marino, Sierra Madre, Monrovia, Duarte, Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne, Claremont, Upland, and most of Burbank. Commissioner Peevey and Sen. Liu maintain a home in La Canada-Flintridge.

Commissioner Catherine J. K. Sandoval: Commissioner Sandoval spent her early days in East Los Angeles and Montebello.  She holds the distinction of being the first Latina appointed to the CPUC in its 100-year history.  After earning her J.D. from Stanford University, she went on to study at Oxford University in England where she became the first Latina to win a Rhodes Scholarship. Sandoval was tapped by Gov. Brown in 2011.

Commissioner Carla J. Peterman: She was appointed to the commission by Gov. Brown in 2012. She had previously served on the California Energy Commission, making her the first African-American woman to serve on both Commissions. Like Commissioner Sandoval, Peterman attended Oxford University, where she, too, was a Rhodes Scholar.

Commissioner Mike Florio: He is serving his first term, having been appointed by Gov. Brown in 2011. Before his appointment, Florio was a senior attorney with The Utility Reform Network. His term will expire in 2017.

Commissioner Michael Picker: He is the newest member of the group, appointed in January 2014. He had previously served under two governors as Senior Advisor for Renewable Energy Facilities. His focus has been helping California reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

About the Agency

The CPUC 's mandate is to make sure that the state's utility services and infrastructure are safe and reliable and that rates stay reasonable. It also sets standards for service and safety, and will investigate unlawful or anticompetitive practices.

When it comes to Transportation Network Companies, after holding a series of workshops, the CPUC issued licensing requirements and procedures.

Both the TNCs and the drivers they hire must are subject to a number of regulations that include the following:

  • Each TNC and each driver must maintain commercial liability insurance policies  
  • TNCs must create driver training programs
  • TNCs must have a zero tolerance for use of intoxicating substances
  • All applicants must undergo a criminal background check
  • All vehicles must undergo an annual 19-point maintenance check

Click here to see the full list of requirements for TNCs and drivers. These are similar to what taxi companies have to do -- except that taxi regulations are set by the city.

Another round of hearings will take place this fall to examine how the current regulations have worked and whether any changes need to be made.  At this point, the CPUC is considering increasing the amount and types of insurance the TNCs are required to carry.

Problems and Complaints

If you have a problem or complaint about a TNC, you can contact the CPUC. You can download a Passenger Carrier Complaint Form or find the information about how to file a complaint online.

If you have questions or want the complaint form mailed to you, you can call the CPUC at 1-800-894-9444 or email ciu_intake@cpuc.ca.gov.

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