Uber hit with lawsuit over ‘Safe Rides Fee’

A class action lawsuit was filed this week against Uber over the transportation network company’s $1 “Safe Rides Fee” for UberX rides.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco, alleges that Uber misrepresents its $1 fee to customers, as well as the nature of its background checks and safety measures taken on behalf of riders.

The class action suit comes after the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles earlier this month filed a civil lawsuit similarly accusing the company of violating consumer protection laws and making “misleading” statements.

UberX, a smartphone app that connects riders to drivers using their personal vehicles, states on its site that the company charges the “Safe Rides Fee” to “ensure the safest possible platform for Uber riders and drivers,” including federal, state and local background checks, vehicle checks and driver safety education.

However, the lawsuit, filed on behalf of California resident Byron McKnight and Michigan resident Matthew Philliben, alleges that Uber’s background checks and other safety measures fall well short of industry standards, despite the company referring to the practices as “industry-leading” on its website as recently as October.

The suit alleges that, unlike many background checks, Uber does not require fingerprints or even for the applicant to appear in person, and also that the company allows drivers to simply transmit photographs of vehicles rather than performing inspections.

Officials with San Francisco-based Uber were not immediately available today for comment on the lawsuit, which the plaintiffs allege could include tens of thousands of riders who have been charged the fees.

On Dec. 9, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon and Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey filed their lawsuit against Uber and announced a $250,000 settlement with their competitor Lyft over similar allegations.

Gascon said Uber provides its customers with a “false sense of security” and that he hoped the lawsuit would result in restitution to UberX passengers who paid the $1 fee, as well as a $4 fee he said the company was improperly charging for trips to and from San Francisco International Airport.

Uber also faces a wrongful death suit filed by the family of a 6-year-old girl struck and killed by an UberX driver on Polk Street in San Francisco last New Year’s Eve. The company faces another lawsuit related to a September incident in which a driver allegedly attacked a passenger with a hammer in San Francisco, causing potentially permanent vision damage to the victim.