Uber Agrees to Pay Millions to Settle Claims It Overcharged People with Disabilities

In a settlement filed Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Uber Technologies acknowledged that its wait time fees discriminated against passengers with disabilities, and agreed to pay several million dollars to more than 65,000 Uber users who were charged discriminatory fees.

“Ensuring equal access to transportation for those with disabilities is an important goal of the ADA,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds of 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.”

“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 for 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.”

In a statement to Bay City News, Carissa Simons, an Uber spokesperson, said some policy changes had been made prior to the lawsuit.

“We are always working to improve accessibility for all users and encourage riders with a disability to utilize our self-declaration form to have wait time fees waived,” Simons said.

To request a wait time refund in the Uber app: Select the receipt from the ride, then select “Review my fees and fares,” then select “Wait time fees and refunds."

From Uber's website, click “Help with a trip,” then “Review my fees and fares,” then click “Wait time fees and refunds.”

In November 2021, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit alleging that Uber violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 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 federal 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 federal 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 a two-year agreement, Uber will change its wait-time policies.

The company said it will 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 also agreed to 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.

The settlement will cost Uber millions.

The company agreed to 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.

A copy of the settlement agreement is posted on the Justice Department website.

Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.

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