Uber agrees to $750,000 fine for inadequate DUI policies

Uber has agreed to pay a fine of $750,000 and do more to boot drunk drivers off its app after state regulators claimed the ride-hailing company’s slow, ineffective response to DUI complaints put passengers at risk.

After a months-long investigation, regulators on Tuesday revealed the fine as part of a proposed settlement with the San Francisco-based startup. The California Public Utilities Commission, which oversees ride-hailing companies in the state, must approve the deal before it becomes final.

The proposed fine falls short of the $1.1 million regulators originally sought back in April for what they deemed to be a serious violation of the state’s “zero tolerance” rules regarding DUI complaints.

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“We worked closely with regulators over several months on this joint settlement to develop an appropriate standard for handling complaints to ensure rider and driver safety,” an Uber spokesman wrote in an emailed statement. “We are committed to continue working with the CPUC to develop an industry-wide standard that further promotes safety.”

The CPUC requires that “promptly after a zero-tolerance complaint is filed, the TNC shall suspend the driver for further investigation,” but the rule doesn’t specify what qualifies as “promptly,” or what “further investigation” means.

In April, the CPUC said it found Uber failed to quickly investigate or suspend the driver behind 151 zero-tolerance complaints the company received between August 2014 and August 2015. In some cases, Uber didn’t sufficiently investigate the complaints at all, the regulators found. And in other cases, they said, Uber reported it had suspended a driver, but that driver was still able to accept rides on the platform — an issue Uber attributed to an engineering glitch.

Uber, in its defense, claimed its zero-tolerance policies have improved since 2014.

Regulators said Uber cooperated with the investigation, and was “candid” about both the issues it faced when processing zero-tolerance complaints, and its efforts to solve those problems.

Under the proposed settlement, Uber must make it easier for passengers to report intoxicated drivers, by making the link to Uber’s “critical safety response line” more prominent on the app. Uber also must send drivers and riders periodic email blasts advertising its zero tolerance policy, and must warn passengers in its app and on its website to call 911 if they believe their driver is intoxicated.

The settlement also requires Uber to update its policy for investigating DUI complaints. In each instance, Uber must log the complaint and suspend the driver, then reach out to both the driver and the passenger, and determine whether the complaint is well-founded. When deciding whether to punish the driver, Uber can take into account factors including the driver’s rating and prior complaints.

Uber also agreed to file a motion with the CPUC asking regulators to formally clarify the state’s zero tolerance rules.

Photo: This Wednesday, June 21, 2017, file photo shows the building that houses the headquarters of Uber, in San Francisco.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

 

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