Uber

Uber headquarters in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

By Laura J. Nelson, Andrea Chang and Paresh Dave
July 15, 2015

Uber — plagued by problems with regulators, drivers and taxi unions around the world — took a big blow in its home state Wednesday when an administrative judge recommended that the ride-sharing giant be fined $7.3 million and be suspended from operating in California.

In her decision, chief administrative law judge Karen V. Clopton of the California Public Utilities Commission contended that Uber has not complied with state laws designed to ensure that drivers are doling out rides fairly to all passengers, regardless of where they live or who they are. She said Uber’s months-long refusal to provide such data is in violation of the 2013 law that legalized ride-hailing firms.

Uber said it would appeal. Whether the fine and suspension are enforced will depend on the appeals process, which could take several months.

“They had a year to comply with these regulations, and didn’t do it,” CPUC spokeswoman Constance Gordon said.

Uber competes with the taxi industry by contracting with drivers and connecting them with passengers through a smartphone app.

Clopton wrote that her proposed ban would remain in effect until Uber “complies fully with the outstanding requirements.”

The reporting requirements include the number of requests for rides from people with service animals or wheelchairs; how many such rides were completed; and other ride-logging information such as date, time, Zip Code and fare paid. For Uber, which has raised $5.9 billion in venture capital investment, a $7.3-million fine would amount to less than 1% of that. A suspension, however, is another matter.

In a prepared statement, an Uber spokeswoman called the decision “deeply disappointing.”

“We will appeal the decision as Uber has already provided substantial amounts of data to the California Public Utilities Commission, information we have provided elsewhere with no complaints,” spokeswoman Eva Behrend said. “Going further risks compromising the privacy of individual riders as well as driver-partners.”

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