Uber was hit with an $8.9 million fine by Colorado’s public utilities commission Monday, after regulators found that dozens of drivers were operating there despite often egregious criminal histories.
In a press release detailing the fine, Colorado officials said that 57 Uber drivers over the past year and a half were on the job despite having felony convictions, major moving violations or were driving with a suspended, revoked or cancelled driver’s license.
The fine comes as the ride-hailing company continues to be battered by lawsuits for assault against its contractor drivers and struggles to polish a brand image that has been tarnished by a sexist corporate culture that toppled cofounder and CEO Travis Kalanick.
While Uber and other ride hailing companies do perform background checks on driver, Colorado determined that despite having information that should have disqualified many drivers, Uber “allowed (them) to drive anyway,” Colorado Public Utilities Commission director Doug Dean said in a statement.
Uber representatives said the company was only made aware of the fine through the press release, and was reviewing its options. PUC officials noted that the company could pay 50% of the fine within 10 days to resolve the case, or request a hearing to contest it.
Uber released a statement that suggested the company was surprised by the action given that it had been working on the matter with state officials.
“We recently discovered a process error that was inconsistent with Colorado’s ridesharing regulations and proactively notified the Colorado Public Utilities Commission,” the statement read.
“This error affected a small number of drivers and we immediately took corrective action. Per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with access to the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third party background screening.”
While the number of drivers removed from the service may seem small, their transgressions loom large. The commission’s inquiry began in fact after after police in the ski town of Vail alerted officials to an incident in which an Uber driver assaulted a rider.
After cross-checking driver records provided by Uber with state criminal records, commission officials determined that 12 Uber drivers were doing business despite having felony convictions while 17 had been cited for violations such as driving under the influence and reckless driving.
Officials said they also found instances in which Uber failed to flag drivers who were using an alias, including “one driver who was a convicted felon, habitual offender, and at one point in his past had escaped from the Colorado Department of Corrections,” the release said. “Nevertheless, after he was released from prison, he became a driver for Uber.”