San Francisco, L.A. Sue Uber For Allegedly Misleading Consumers On Drivers’ Safety, Other Issues

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After hearing several tales of consumers being mistreated or accosted by Uber drivers, one might begin to question the company’s “industry-leading” practices when it comes to screening drivers. It appears two California district attorneys are doing just that by filing a civil suit against the company for a number of issues including allegedly misleading consumers on its background checks for drivers.

The Associated Press reports that the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles counties filed the suit in San Francisco Superior Court on Tuesday contending that the ridesharing company is in violation of California law for its alleged mischaracterization of the extent to which it vets its drivers.

While Uber, which uses an outside private firm to screen prospective nonprofessional drivers, characterizes its practices as “industry-leading” on its website, the suit claims that simply isn’t the case.

“Uber continues to misrepresent and exaggerate background checks on drivers,” Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey says. “It’s not our goal to shut them down. What we’re saying is their advertising is false.”

The district attorneys argue that Uber’s background checking practices, which rely heavily on the use of information supplied electronically by prospective drivers, can easily be compromised if applicants use stolen or false identifications.

One way to combat any falsified information would be the use of fingerprinting, a background checking method that Uber does not employ.

“You are not using an industry-leading background process if you are not fingerprinting your drivers,” George Gascón, the district attorney of San Francisco, tells the New York Times Bits Blog.

A spokeswoman for Uber defended the company but did not address specific allegations in the California lawsuit, the AP reports.

“Uber is an integral, safe and established part of the transportation ecosystem in the Golden State,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. “We will continue to engage in discussions with the district attorneys.”

In addition to accusations about mischaracterized background checks, the lawsuit claims that Uber charged passengers an additional $4 for trips to and from San Francisco International Airport even though the company lacks a permit to do business at the airport and the company doesn’t pay the airport fee.

Additionally, the suit accuses the company of failing to obtain approval from state regulators on how drivers calculate fares.

The California lawsuit comes a day after the city of Portland, OR, sued to prevent the ridesharing company from operating in the city, just three days after Uber opened for business in the area.

California prosecutors sue Uber; Lyft settles [The Associated Press]

Uber Is Sued by 2 California Counties, Citing Misleading Safety Practices [New York Times Bits Blog]