San Fran­cisco dis­trict at­tor­ney ex­pands Uber law­suit


The San Fran­cisco dis­trict at­tor­ney an­nounced Wed­nes­day the ex­pan­sion of a con­sumer­pro­tec­tion law­suit aimed at Uber’s claims about driver back­ground checks.

Dis­trict At­tor­ney Ge­orge Gas­con said Wed­nes­day that the grow­ing ride-hail­ing com­pany con­tin­ues to un­fairly claim it is rig­or­ously check­ing the back­ground of its driv­ers. Gas­con said Uber can’t make that claim un­less it puts it driv­ers through the same fin­ger­print­ing process re­quired of taxi driv­ers in Cal­i­for­nia.

Gas­con made his com­ments a day af­ter his of­fice filed an ex­panded law­suit in San Fran­cisco Su­pe­rior Court ac­cus­ing Uber of false advertising. The ex­panded law­suit claims Uber failed to un­cover the crim­i­nal records of 25 Cal­i­for­nia driv­ers, in­clud­ing sev­eral reg­is­tered sex of­fend­ers and a con­victed mur­derer.

“This is re­ally only scratch­ing the sur­face,” Gas­con said at a news con­fer­ence.

Gas­con and Los An­ge­les County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Jackie Lacey filed the orig­i­nal law­suit in De­cem- ber. The law­suit doesn’t ob­ject to Uber’s back­ground checks, but it ob­jects to the com­pany’s claim that it uses an in­dus­try-lead­ing process to vet its driv­ers. Any­thing short of fin­ger­print­ing can’t make that claim, Gas­con said.

In a state­ment Wed­nes­day, Uber said it dis­agrees with Gas­con. Com­pany spokes­woman Jes­sica San­tillo said that no back­ground check sys­tem is flaw­less and its checks are just as de­tailed as with taxi driv­ers.

San­tillo said Uber ran back­ground checks of “hun­dreds” of Cal­i­for­nia taxi driv­ers and un­cov- ered con­vic­tions for drunken driv­ing, rape, at­tempted mur­der, child abuse and vi­o­lence.

The two Cal­i­for­nia dis­trict at­tor­neys set­tled a sim­i­lar law­suit with Uber com­peti­tor Lyft last year. Lyft agreed to pay US$250,000 and to stop claim­ing its back­ground checks were among the best in the in­dus­try.

Uber and its com­peti­tors have en­coun­tered var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal hur­dles as they ex­pand ser­vices.

Gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties around the globe are grap­pling with how to reg­u­late and mon­i­tor ride-hail­ing com­pa­nies. Taxi and limousine driv­ers and com­pa­nies com­plain that the app mak­ers should be sub­jected to the same reg­u­la­tions and fees they face around the world.

The ride- book­ing com­pa­nies counter that their driv­ers are pri­vate con­trac­tors who use the star­tups’ tech­nol­ogy to find cus­tomers in need of rides.

Uber, in par­tic­u­lar, is fight­ing nu­mer­ous le­gal and reg­u­la­tory bat­tles as it ag­gres­sively ex­pands world­wide. The San Fran­cis­cobased com­pany says it looks “for­ward to re­solv­ing this is­sue” with the Cal­i­for­nia dis­trict at­tor­neys.

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