Uber claimed it made a profit in its third quarter, even if you ignore the billions of dollar that it continues to lose on a quarterly basis. Now, the Department of Justice is suing Uber for another of its questionable business practices.
The feds have charged Uber with violating the Americans With Disabilities Act. They are charging passengers with disabilities more time to get into hailed cars. It's simple: Uber drivers who wait in certain cities may be subject to penalties depending on what kind of ride they are taking. Uber did not make reasonable accommodations for disabled riders, including folding down wheelchairs or taking extra time to get in a taxi.
Two accounts of Uber riders with disabilities are included in the federal complaint. They are Passenger A (or Passenger B) in the suit. First, Passenger A, a quadriplegic, claimed that she noticed in August 2020 that she had been charged a wait fee for each Uber ride since May 2020. She said she tried multiple times to contact support but was not able to. In the suit, she claims an Uber representative informed her that the fees were automatically applied and could not be stopped. She also claims she was never reimbursed. A wheelchair user named Passenger B claimed that they discovered in September 2018 that they had been charged wait charges for multiple Uber rides since January 2018. According to the suit, Uber did not refund Passenger B all of their fees after they realized they had been charged wait fees for multiple rides since January 2018.
Uber must pay damages and fines to disabled riders who were charged extra fees. Uber also needs to change its wait-fee policy. The DOJ assistant attorney general in the civil rights division stated that people with disabilities should have equal access to all aspects of community life, including private transportation services like Uber.
Uber spokesperson Matt Kallman stated that fees are charged to all users, but they were not intended to be applied to people who have a legitimate need for extra time. Kallman stated that Uber had been in discussions with the DOJ to resolve any confusions prior to this disappointing and surprising lawsuit.
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Kallman stated that Uber has always refunded fees to disabled riders when they notify us of their charges. He also said that, as of last week, users who certify that they are disabled have these fees "automatically waived."
Although ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft offer an alternative option for transportation, accessibility to these services has not always been equal. Equal rights activists claim that ride-hailing companies don't make enough effort to provide accessible vehicles for the public, as required by law. As the Post noted, a 2018 report by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest found dedicated wheelchair-accessible vehicles on Uber and Lyft had wait times four times longer than others, with the report stating the services were practically "useless." A 2019 lawsuit alleged a total absence of wheelchair-accessible Uber vehicles in Pittsburgh; a federal court refused to dismiss a similar lawsuit brought in DC earlier this year.