Justice sues Uber over ‘wait time’ fees
The Justice Department is suing Uber over allegations that it discriminated against passengers with disabilities through the platform’s “wait time” fee charges.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, alleges the ride-hailing service overcharged passengers with disabilities in violation of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to reasonably modify its wait time fee policy for passengers who need more than the allotted two minutes to get into an Uber car.
“People with disabilities deserve equal access to all areas of community life, including the private transportation services provided by companies like Uber,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.
“This lawsuit seeks to bring Uber into compliance with the mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act while sending a powerful message that Uber cannot penalize passengers with disabilities simply because they need more time to get into a car.”
The government is asking the court to order Uber to change its policy in a way that is compliant with the ADA and pay damages to people subjected to what the department is calling illegal wait time fees.
Uber spokesperson Noah Edwardsen said “we fundamentally disagree that our policies violate the ADA.”
“Wait time fees are charged to all riders to compensate drivers after two minutes of waiting, but were never intended for riders who are ready at their designated pickup location but need more time to get into the car. We recognize that many riders with disabilities depend on Uber for their transportation needs, which is why we had been in active discussions with the DOJ about how to address any concerns or confusion before this surprising and disappointing lawsuit,” Edwardsen said in a statement.
He said, “It has been our policy to refund wait time fees for disabled riders” when they alert the company of the charge, and that a change last week allows any rider who certifies they are disabled to have fees automatically waived.
The company started charging wait time fees in 2016 for passengers that take longer than the allotted two-minute window to enter the car when it arrives at the pickup location.
The complaint alleges that although Uber has issued wait time fee refunds to some passengers with disabilities in certain cases, in others the company has denied refunds to passengers with disabilities even after being informed that the fees were charged “because of their disabilities.”
Updated 2:31 p.m.
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