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California agency proposes $1.13M penalty against Uber for alleged inaction on reportedly intoxicated drivers

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

The Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division (CPED) of the California Public Utilities Commission announced that it is considering whether to impose a $1.13 million penalty against transportation network services provider Uber for repeated violations of safety requirements by its failure to comply with zero-tolerance intoxicating substance policy rules. The California agency has opened a penalty consideration case against Rasier-CA, which operates as Uber.

Suspension/investigation following complaints. According to the CPED, Uber failed to either suspend promptly and/or investigate drivers after zero-tolerance complaints had been filed between August 12, 2014, and August 31, 2015. The agency’s investigation found that of the 154 complaints reviewed, Uber failed to suspend and/or investigate drivers in 151 complaints, resulting in a total of 151 violations. The CPED has recommended assessing penalties of $7,500 per violation, for a total penalty of $1,132,500.

The Public Utilities Commission of the State of California investigation/order reflects that Uber reported receiving 2,047 zero-tolerance complaints between August 12, 2014, and August 31, 2015. The company deactivated drivers in 574 of those complaints. The CPED’s review of 154 complaints found that Uber “failed to promptly suspend drivers in 149 complaints, failed to investigate 133 complaints, and failed to either suspend or investigate 113 complaints.” Among other things, the investigation also found that of the 154 complaints reviewed by CPED, Uber provided evidence for only 22 instances in which it suspended the driver within an hour of when a passenger filed a complaint. But even among those 22 complaints, Uber’s records contradict that the company did in fact suspend drivers before initiating an investigation.

The investigation and order to show cause why penalties and sanctions should not be imposed is before the Public Utilities Commission of the State of California; the case is No. I.17-04-009.