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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

City Sues Uber, Settles with Lyft

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2014 at 3:25 PM

click to enlarge uber.jpg
Read all the legal documents — see below.

In a joint press conference with Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey, her San Francisco counterpart, George Gascón, today announced a lawsuit against $40 billion "startup" Uber — and a settlement with competitor Lyft. 

The case, brought in the name of "The People of California," alleges Uber, the heavyweight champ of car-hire apps, has engaged in a bevy of unfair business practices. Among them, the company is charged with: 

  • Overstating the quality of the background checks drivers undergo, despite a $1 fee charged to UberX riders to fund an "industry-leading" background check procedure; 

  • Calculating rider fares using technologies the state has not declared to be accurate, reliable, and not facilitating fraud;

  • Riding to California airports without permission of said airports; 

  • Charging passengers a $4 airport fee for a trip to San Francisco International Airport but failing to remit it to SFO — as Uber was forbidden from taking riders there. 

That last charge recapitulates an accusation made in a class-action suit filed in San Francisco Superior Court last week, and another filed in Boston last month.

The suit seeks a permanent injunction, a cessation of the aforementioned behaviors, civil penalties, and restitution for riders who disgorged an "Airport Fee Toll" that was purportedly pocketed by the company. 

Lyft wasn't charged with palming a bogus airport fee, but was accused of the other three counts. It capitulated, and settled. Lyft is now mandated to cease "making misleading statements" regarding the stringency of its background checks or how those checks compare with taxi drivers' checks. It also must fork over its app to the state's Department of Agriculture's Division of Measurement Standards for "evaluation of its accuracy," and, finally, get permission from the state's airports before driving passengers there. 

Lyft will disgorge $500,000 in civil penalties. Half of that is due within 30 days and the other half will be waived if Lyft obeys these new stipulations. 

Uber released the following statement to SF Weekly regarding today's suit: 

Californians and California lawmakers all agree — Uber is an integral, safe, and established part of the transportation ecosystem in the Golden State. Uber has met with the District Attorneys to address their concerns regarding airport operations, the uberPOOL product, background checks, and operation of the app. We will continue to engage in discussions with the District Attorneys.

It remains to be seen just how many Californians — or California lawmakers —  truly "agree" how safe or integral Uber is. But it is, inarguably, established. 

A case management conference is scheduled for May of next year, so, hopefully, those "discussions" will continue.

Read the suit vs. Uber

Read the suit vs. Lyft

Read the Lyft settlement 

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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