Uber may face fine over handling of drunk-driving complaints

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Uber may face fine over handling of drunk-driving complaints

A division of the California Public Utilities Commission said Uber breached (PDF) so-called "zero-tolerance" guidelines demanding that transportation companies promptly investigate drunken-driving complaints consumers lodge with those companies. Those companies, however, must comply with a zero-tolerance policy, under which drivers accused of driving while intoxicated are promptly suspended and investigated. The guidelines state any driver found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on the job will be "permanently deactivated: from the network".

"Even within those 22 complaints, Rasier's records appear to contradict that Rasier did indeed suspend drivers prior to initiating an investigation".

Rasier reported receiving 2,047 zero-tolerance complaints between August 12, 2014 and August 31, 2015; Rasier deactivated drivers in 574 of those complaints. The order asks the full commission to determine if Uber indeed violated the zero-tolerance rule, as the PUC investigators found.

California regulators are pursuing a $1.1 million fine against Uber, alleging the ride-hailing service repeatedly failed to adhere to state policy of immediately suspending and investigating drivers reported as being drunk or under the influence of a substance. So, this means the state's data, which has taken into account only 154 complaints, can be viewed as incomplete.

To confirm the policy, regulators analyzed selected complaints against drivers who received three or more complaints.

"We have zero tolerance for any impaired driving as outlined in our Community Guidelines", an Uber spokeswoman said in the statement.

The investigation order, issued by the consumer protection and enforcement division of the commission on Tuesday (11 April), contains the drunken-driving findings. This report relates to complaints in 2014 and 2015 and we've significantly improved our processes since then.

The commission claims Uber placed "passengers and the public at immediate risk" by allegedly allowing drivers to remain on the platform, and is recommending a fine of 7,500 for each of those 151 alleged violations, for a total penalty of $1,132,500.

The next step in the proceeding will be a hearing before an administrative law judge, who will decide whether to agree with imposing a fine and whether it would be the proposed amount or a different amount.

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