Uber gets fined $7.3M for not sharing its data

CPUC wanted information from Uber to prove that it was not discriminating and it was being safe

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
July 16, 2015
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In news that should surprise literally nobody, Uber is, once again, finding itself in the wrong side of the law, facing fines and a potential suspension. It's the kind of story that's so commonplace that, frankly, I hesitate on whether to even write about them anymore.

So why did I choose to cover this? Because of the size of the fine. It's a big one this time. 

The e-hailing company has been fined a heft $7.3 million by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), it was revealed on Wednesday. The reason has to do with Uber not giving up data in regards to its business practices.

The agency had been asking Rasier-CA, an Uber Technologies subsidiary that provides Transportation Network Company (TNC) services through UberX, for information that included the number, and the percentage, of customers who requested accessible vehicles, and how often the TNC was able to comply with requests for accessible vehicles.

It also wanted to know the number of rides requested and accepted by TNC drivers within each zip code where the TNC operates, and the number of rides that were requested but not accepted; as well as the amounts paid/donated. And, finally, it was asking for driver safety information: the cause of each driving incident involving a TNC driver.

Uber had one year, starting in September of 2013, to comply. Of course, the company did not do so, and so here we are. 

The reason that the agency was requesting all of this information is to make sure that Uber was not beinf discriminatory in its practices.

"In adopting these reporting requirements, the CPUC intended to gather information necessary to its oversight of TNCs on behalf of the riding public: whether TNC services are being provided in a nondiscriminatory manner enabling equal access to all, and whether TNC services are being provided in a manner that promotes public safety," the CPUC said.

It's not as though there's no reason for anyone to think that Uber discriminates against handicapped passengers. In April, the company was said to be discriminating against blind people by refusing to transport guide dogs, or in one case putting the dog in the trunk. Then, in May, another suit came down saying that Uber, and its main competitor Lyft, both have not made their vehicles wheelchair accessible

Uber has been playing damage control, making updates to its app that are specifically catered to drivers who are hard of hearing, but that is going to matter little if it is still found that its drivers are intentionally discriminating against handicapped passengers.

“Uber has already provided substantial amounts of data to the California Public Utilities Commission, information we have provided elsewhere with no complaints,” the company said in a statement to Re/code, who first reported on the ruling. “Going further risks compromising the privacy of individual riders as well as driver-partners.  These CPUC requests are also beyond the remit of the commission and will not improve public safety.”

Rasier-CA is being given 30 days to pay the penalty and comply with reporting requirements. If it does not, then there could be dire consequences; Uber could have its operating license in California suspended.

Of course, there is always the option to appeal, which the company is already said to be doing. In the meantime, Uber can continue to operate as usual until the matter is settled. 

VatorNews has reached out to Uber for further comment on the fine. We will update this story if we learn more. 

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