Uber Fined $8.9 Million by Colorado Public Utilities Commission Over Driver Background Checks

Transportation-Network-Companies

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On November 20, 2017, criminal investigators with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a Civil Penalty Assessment Notice (CPAN) totaling $8.9 for Transportation Network Company (TNC) Uber Technologies, Inc. “for allowing individuals with disqualifying criminal or motor vehicle offenses, or without valid licenses, to drive for the company,” according to a news release from the Colorado PUC.

The CPAN listed violations involving 57 Uber drivers over the last year and a half who should not have been permitted to drive for the company. Uber was cited $2,500 a day for each day a disqualified driver was found to have worked. The PUC transportation enforcement staff launched an investigation in 2017 after a referral from the Vail Police Department about an Uber driver accused of assaulting a passenger.

The PUC checked Uber driver records with data from the Colorado Crime Information Center (CCIC) and court databases and found Uber allowed individuals to drive with previous felony convictions, major moving violations – including Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), reckless driving, and driving under restraint – and driving with suspended, revoked, or cancelled driver’s licenses.

Under Colorado law, a TNC must perform a criminal background check and review a driving history report before allowing a person to act as a driver, make sure they have a valid driver’s license, and disqualify drivers convicted of offenses such as felony convictions, alcohol or drug-related driving offenses, unlawful sexual offenses, and major moving vehicle violations. Among the findings of the investigation were:

  • 12 Uber drivers with felony convictions;
  • 17 Uber drivers with major moving vehicle violations;
  • Three Uber drivers with interlock driver’s licenses, which are required after recent drunk driving convictions; and
  • 63 Uber drivers with driver’s license issues.

“We have determined that Uber had background check information that should have disqualified these drivers under the law, but they were allowed to drive anyway,” PUC Director Doug Dean stated in the news release. “PUC staff was able to find felony convictions that the company’s background checks failed to find, demonstrating that the company’s background checks are inadequate.”

Dean also said in other cases the PUC “could not confirm criminal background checks were even conducted by Uber” and that Uber background checks failed to identify aliases used by their drivers, including one driver who was a convicted felon. Under PUC rules, Uber can pay 50 percent of the CPAN amount within 10 days to resolve the case or request a hearing before an administrative law judge to contest the CPAN.

The Denver Post reported that Uber released a statement about the fine: “We recently discovered a process error that was inconsistent with Colorado’s ridesharing regulations and proactively notified the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). This error affected a small number of drivers and we immediately took corrective action.”

The statement continued: “Per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with access to the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third-party background screening. We will continue to work closely with the CPUC to enable access to safe, reliable transportation options for all Coloradans.”

This is not the first time Uber has had to pay money over the background checks of its drivers. In April 2016, ESR News reported Uber agreed pay at least $10 million to settle lawsuits filed by district attorneys in San Francisco and Los Angeles that claim they misled passengers about the quality of driver background checks, a figure that could rise to $25 million if Uber does not fully comply with terms of the settlements.

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