Uber fined millions over faulty reporting

The California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco Thursday fined an Uber subsidiary $7.6 million for failing to report required information about the accessibility, availability and driver safety of its ride-booking services in the state.

The five-member commission unanimously approved a proposed decision by an administrative law judge setting the fine for Rasier-CA LLC, which operates Uber’s cellphone-based service in California.

The decision said the subsidiary’s failure to provide required data in three categories “was willful (i.e. inexcusable).” The three categories were the number of requests for accessible vehicles by wheelchair users and blind people with service dogs, and how many of those requests were accepted; the number of rides requested within each zip code and how many were accepted or rejected; and the number of driver-safety problems and whether compensation was paid by insurance or other sources.

The San Francisco-based commission began requiring annual reports on the information in September 2014, one year after it decided to start regulating ride-booking service companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The companies, which the CPUC calls transportation network companies, enable passengers to use smartphone applications to hire drivers to give them rides in their private cars.

The Uber subsidiary began providing the required information in August 2015. The $7.6 million fine is for failing to comply fully before that.

The commission also added a $1,000 contempt fine and said it will suspend Rasier’s license to operate in California unless the full penalty is paid within 30 days.

But Uber said it will pay, while also appealing to the state Court of Appeal.

“While we are disappointed by the decision, we look forward to making our case to the California Court of Appeal. In the meantime, we will pay the fine and continue to work in good faith with the commission,” the company said in a statement.

The 160-page proposed decision by Administrative Law Judge Robert Mason was adopted by the commission without discussion.

The commission said Uber provided some data, but the information in the three categories was incomplete. It rejected Uber’s arguments that the requirements were burdensome and intruded on the company’s privacy and trade secrets.

“Rasier-CA failed to comply with the laws of this state and further misled this commission by an artifice or false statement of law by asserting multiple legal defenses that were unsound. Such conduct warrants the imposition of penalties or fines,” the decision said.

The commission said it needed the information to carry out its mandate of protecting public safety and assuring equal access to services.

After conducting evidentiary hearings, Mason initially proposed a $7.3 million fine in July. After Uber filed an administrative appeal, Mason reaffirmed the proposed decision, but increased the recommended penalty to $7.6 million to account for 28 additional days of non-compliance between July 15 and Aug. 13.