California sues Uber over background checks

Filed Under: California Criminal Records

TrafficUber has already caused its fair share of ripples in just a few short years of existence.  The rideshare/taxi replacement startup has become massive, with cities all over the country filled with their drivers.  In just a few seconds on the Uber app, you’ll have your ride all lined up, and at a price that usually undercuts other drivers for hire and taxi companies.

That alone is enough for taxi drivers and their unions to be up in arms – New York City, amongst others, has been caught up in trying to figure out if they can regulate, license, and tax Uber’s independent drivers.  Taxi unions decry the massive loss of business they’ve seen in recent months, and have been pleading with the cities they operate in to regulate them back into relevance.

As Uber hops that one hurdle, however, another has popped up.  This time it’s in San Francisco and Los Angeles, where city prosecutors are pressing Uber for honest answers about their safety screening and processes – and all against the very real threat of litigation.  If Uber is found to have misled its patrons with regards to their safety, there will be a huge legal hit to their bottom line and there will likely be bad press and loss of customer trust.

District Attorneys from both cities announced last Tuesday that they would be pursuing legal action against the company.  Specifically, they were accusing Uber of fraudulent business practices.  The suit claims that Uber misled customers as to the strength or efficacy of their background checks.  The suit also accuses Uber of illegally operating at airports and charging related fees and fares without consulting the appropriate state agencies.

Central to the controversy is that the company doesn’t use fingerprints in their background checks, and instead relies on driver provided information.  Of course, this information would obviously be much easier to falsify than biometric data.  The company claims that their background check process is “industry-leading,” the suit alleges, which misled potential and current customers into thinking that the checks were more secure than they actually were.

Ultimately, the lawyers say, people want to feel safer than they would just “getting into a stranger’s car,” but that’s not exactly the reality of the situation.  One of their largest demands is that the self-provided information loophole is closed, so that the company – and by extension its patrons – can be absolutely sure that the person whose background they are evaluating and approving of is actually the person who will be driving the vehicles under their banner.

Uber has had hard fought battles already, and the service has been, for the time being, completely banned from several countries.  These include the Netherlands, Spain, and Thailand.  Other countries, and some cities within the US, are in lawsuits over things ranging from breaches in national or municipal laws to specific incidents that have called into question the legality and/or safety of the situation.

For the time being, however, Uber remains a revolutionary ridesharing startup that continues to disrupt the taxi and driver for hire markets all around the world.