Uber has agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging the ride-sharing company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by overcharging passengers with disabilities. The company will offer multimillion-dollar compensation to more than 65,000 Uber users who were “paid discriminatory fees due to disability,” according to a statement from the US Department of Justice.
The DOJ originally filed a lawsuit in November 2021 alleging that Uber violated ADA Title III, which prohibits discrimination by private transportation companies. Rather than take the claims to court, Uber has agreed to credit the accounts of eligible riders with double the amount of the waiting fees they were charged, which could potentially total hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in compensation. Uber said the average wait time fee charged to passengers in 2020 was less than $0.60, but multiplied by 65,000 people who regularly use Uber, and that number adds up.
The company will also pay $1,738,500 to 1,000 riders who complained to Uber about being charged a wait time fee due to disability, and an additional $500,000 to others affected.
Uber’s agreement to settle this case means more than bringing justice to people with disabilities who have been discriminated against. It’s also another case where Uber has been forced to settle a dispute that identifies the ride-sharing giant as a ride-hailing company, rather than just a platform that connects freelance drivers with passengers. as Uber has attempted to define itself in the past. For example, in February Uber settled a class action lawsuit against California drivers, paying $8.4 million for wrongfully classifying them as contractors rather than employees.
Uber, of course, denies that interpretation, as well as the notion that it is subject to ADA provisions governing entities primarily engaged in the business of transporting people, according to the settlement agreement. It also denies that it is a ride-hailing service operator within the meaning of the ADA, that it provides taxi services, that it has discriminated against any individual, and generally any wrongdoing.
According to the DOJ complaint, Uber began charging riders waiting fees in a number of cities before expanding nationwide in April 2016. The fees would begin once the driver was at the pick-up point for two minutes and would continue until the start of the ride. Two minutes is not long for a person with a disability, who may be navigating with a wheelchair or walker that needs to be dismantled and stored in the car, or may be blind and need more time to reach the place of supported.
The lawsuit says that even when Uber was aware of a passenger’s need for more time due to a disability, the company continued to charge a wait time fee.
“People with disabilities shouldn’t feel like second-class citizens or punished because of their disability, which is exactly what Uber’s wait time fee policy has done,” the attorney general said. Deputy Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division. “This agreement sends a strong message that Uber and other ride-sharing companies will be held accountable if their services discriminate against people with disabilities.”
In addition to paying a monetary fee, Uber has agreed to waive wait time fees for all riders who certify that they or one of their own will require additional time to board an Uber due to of a disability. He has also agreed to advertise this fee waiver program and ensure that his customer service team is ready to reimburse anyone who does not have a waiver and is charged a fee. waiting time due to disability.
“It has long been a policy of us to reimburse waiting time charges for passengers with disabilities when they alerted us that they have been charged, and before this case was filed we made changes so that any passenger sharing the fact that he has a disability expects. time charges are waived automatically,” Uber said in a statement.
Uber told TechCrunch that drivers will still receive payment for the wait time in cases where this fee is waived, and Uber will bear this cost.
To request a refund, passengers can view a travel receipt on the app and select ‘Review my charges and fares’, then ‘Wait time charges and refunds’. On Uber’s website, a rider can go to the “Help” page and select “Help for a trip”, then “Check my fare or charges”, then “Wait time charges and refunds”.
Last week, Uber got itself in hot water for its past expansion tactics when a former Uber lobbyist leaked thousands of confidential documents. The Uber Files, as they are now called, reveal a history of Uber participating in covert lobbying, breaking the law and exploiting drivers. Uber is also currently the subject of a lawsuit brought by at least dozens of women who were sexually assaulted by drivers.
This article has been updated with additional information and a quote from Uber.