Uber to pay $28 million to settle safety lawsuits

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Uber has agreed to pay $28.5 million to settle a pair of class-action lawsuits that allege the ride-hailing company misled users about the safety of its service. 

The settlement announced Thursday would require Uber to divide up the settlement to 25 million riders in the United States. That means each rider would only be eligible for a small rebate. 

The terms still must be approved by a judge.  

The news Thursday afternoon stems back to a pair of court cases filed back in 2014. In those cases, plaintiffs accused Uber of unlawful and unfair business practices related to its "Safe Rides Fee," which currently stands at $1.35 in D.C. but varies by city. 

The complaints against Uber noted that Uber did not use fingerprint identification to background check its drivers. The complaint also alleged that the "Safe Rides Fee" was not used at the time of the complaint to provide regular car checks, driver safety or launch any nationwide safety features. 

As part of the settlement, Uber said it would rename the "Safe Ride Fee" as a "Booking Fee." The app competitor Lyft has adopted a similar model, according to Uber. 

As of last week, Uber's website said it charged the fee to support "the operation of the Uber platform, including a background check process, development of safety features in the app, incident response and other operations costs." 

In the blog Thursday, Uber noted the app allows customers to have access to a driver's license plate number and photo. The trips can also be tracked. But the company acknowledged its safety language should be improved. 

"However no means of transportation can ever be 100 percent safe," Uber said in a blog post. "Accidents and incidents do happen. That’s why it’s important to ensure that the language we use to describe safety at Uber is clear and precise."

Anyone who hailed an Uber between 2013 and Jan. 31 of this year will be eligible to receive a small piece of the settlement. 

—Updated 8:28 p.m.