Uber’s $8.9 million fine by state regulators has been cut in half after the ride-sharing service protested that the majority of violations citing Uber for allowing drivers with felony convictions or driver’s license issues do not legally apply. The San Francisco company, which also goes by the name Raiser, said in its March 23 declaratory order for clarity that the Colorado Public Utilities Commission staff had already dismissed 1,788 violations — or half the 3,570 violations originally cited. The original penalty included 57 people with past criminal or motor vehicle offenses, including 12 drivers with felony convictions, 17 with major moving violations and 63 with driver’s license issues, among others. PUC spokesman Terry Bote confirmed that about half the counts were dropped after further review, bringing it to “roughly about half of the $8.9 million.” “PUC staff relied on driving records pulled from the Department of Revenue’s driving history database to prepare the civil penalty assessment notice (CPAN). Unfortunately, certified records later obtained from DOR in preparation for litigation of the CPAN contained significant differences from the original records. As a result, PUC staff has agreed to withdraw about half of the counts of the original CPAN,” Bote said in an email. As for the remaining violations? Uber said many are excessive and, based on state statutes, the fines should be lowered or dismissed. For example, state laws that allow transportation network companies such as Uber and rival Lyft to operate in Colorado require the companies to make sure driver’s licenses are valid and drivers have no past disqualifying conduct. But having to annually recheck these two requirements “exceeds the PUC’s power under the TNC Statute, (thus) the rule is legally invalid.” And each violation, at $2,500 for every day a disqualified driver drove, is not only more than double the $1,100 allowed under state statute but should only be charged once, the company said. “Here, though, staff contends that each subsequent day on which the driver logs on to the TNC network is a different violation, multiplying its already-excessive (and legally invalid) penalties,” according to Uber’s petition. Reached on Monday, a spokesman for Uber said, “We will continue working with the Colorado PUC to engage in a constructive dialogue to resolve this matter fairly.” Uber says all of its drivers must pass a criminal history and motor vehicle screening, provide proof of insurance and vehicle registration and meet other requirements. But according to Colorado’s statutes on ride-sharing services, companies such as Uber must only ensure that drivers’ cars have passed a safety inspection annually and each driver must pass a criminal history check once every five years. The case is scheduled for a hearing in December, though an administrative law judge could decide on Uber’s request for clarity in the next couple of months, according to the PUC.    

~source: denver post

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