Written by The Business Journal Staff
(AP) — Uber said Thursday that it will pay $28.5 million to settle two lawsuits that said the ride-hailing firm misled customers about its safety procedures and fees.
The company told a federal judge in San Francisco that it wants to settle the class-action lawsuits by paying about 25 million riders who made U.S. trips between Jan. 1, 2013, and Jan. 31, 2016.
The judge must still approve the deal.
“We are glad to put these cases behind us and we will continue to invest in new technology and great customer services so that we can help improve safety in the cities we serve,” the San Francisco-based company said in a statement.
The lawsuits attacked Uber for charging a fee of up to $2.30 per trip for what it called industry-leading background checks on would-be drivers. However, Uber didn’t do the kind of fingerprint checks required of taxi drivers.
Under the settlement, Uber also would stop using certain “safety-related” advertising language and would rename its “Safe Ride Fee” as a “Booking Fee.”
Uber said its technology does provide safety features, such as track trips through GPS and sharing a driver’s photo identification and license plate number before the passenger gets into the car.
“However no means of transportation can ever be 100 percent safe. Accidents and incidents do happen,” Uber said. “That’s why it’s important to ensure that the language we use to describe safety at Uber is clear and precise.”
Similar lawsuits filed by the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles are still pending.
The prosecutors settled a similar lawsuit with Uber competitor Lyft in 2014. Lyft agreed to pay $250,000 and to stop claiming its background checks were among the best in the industry.
Uber and its competitors have encountered various political hurdles as they expand services.
Government entities around the globe are grappling with how to regulate and monitor ride-hailing companies. Taxi and limousine drivers and companies complain that the app makers should be subjected to the same regulations and fees they face around the world.
The ride-booking companies counter that their drivers are private contractors who use the startups’ technology to find customers in need of rides.