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Uber to pay millions to settle lawsuit for overcharging passengers with disabilities

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Photo: @Vinokurov_Yury/Twenty20

Uber has agreed to pay millions to settle the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit for overcharging passengers with disabilities.

The Department of Justice filed in court today a multi-million-dollar settlement agreement with Uber Technologies Inc. (Uber) to resolve a lawsuit alleging that Uber violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the agreement, Uber will offer several million dollars in compensation to more than 65,000 Uber users who were charged discriminatory fees due to disability.

In November 2021, the department filed a lawsuit alleging that Uber violated Title III of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination by private transportation companies like Uber. According to the complaint, in April 2016, Uber began charging passengers wait time fees in a number of cities, eventually expanding the policy nationwide. The wait time fees started two minutes after the Uber car arrived at the pickup location and were charged until the car began its trip. The department’s complaint alleged that Uber violated the ADA by failing to reasonably modify its wait time fee policy for passengers who, because of disability, needed more than two minutes to get in an Uber car. Passengers with disabilities may need additional time to enter a car for various reasons. A passenger may, for example, use a wheelchair or walker that needs to be broken down and stored in the car. Or a passenger who is blind may need additional time to safely walk from the pickup location to the car itself. The department’s lawsuit alleged that, even when Uber was aware that passengers’ need for additional time was clearly disability-based, Uber started charging a wait time fee at the two-minute mark.

Under the two-year agreement, Uber has committed to waive wait time fees for all Uber riders who certify that they (or someone they frequently travel with) need more time to get in an Uber car because of a disability. Uber also will ensure that refunds are easily available for anyone who does not have a waiver and is charged a wait time fee because of disability. Uber will advertise the wait time fee waiver program and train its customer service representatives on the waiver program and refund process to ensure that people with disabilities are not charged illegal fees.

Additionally, Uber will credit the accounts of more than 65,000 eligible riders who signed up for the waiver program for double the amount of wait time fees they were ever charged, which could amount to potentially hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in compensation. Uber will also pay $1,738,500 to more than one thousand riders who complained to Uber about being charged wait time fees because of disability, and $500,000 to other harmed individuals identified by the department.

“People with disabilities should not be made to feel like second-class citizens or punished because of their disability, which is exactly what Uber’s wait time fee policy did,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This agreement sends a strong message that Uber and other ridesharing companies will be held accountable if their services discriminate against people with disabilities. The Civil Rights Division remains committed to enforcing the ADA and ensuring that people with disabilities can travel free from barriers and indignities.”

“Ensuring equal access to transportation for those with disabilities is an important goal of the ADA,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds for the Northern District of California. “People with disabilities must have access to ridesharing services provided by Uber and similar companies without enduring discriminatory wait time fees. This agreement removes that barrier to equal access for passengers with disabilities and provides a mechanism to compensate those harmed by Uber’s past wait time fee policy.”

This matter was handled jointly by Assistant U.S. Attorney David DeVito for the Northern District of California and the Civil Rights Division’s Disability Rights Section. A copy of the settlement agreement is attached.

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