Uber Technologies Inc. has reached a multimillion-dollar settlement on federal charges that the company discriminated against riders with disabilities by charging them wait-time fees for the extra time it took for them to enter a vehicle.
Uber UBER, +4.20% must credit the accounts of more than 65,000 riders who signed up for the wait-time waiver for double the amount of fees they were charged, which could total hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release Monday. The company must also pay nearly $1.74 million to more than 1,000 riders who complained about being charged wait-time fees, and $500,000 more to others harmed as identified by the government. The deal calls for Uber to bear the costs of paying a third party to administer the settlement funds, and the company must also pay a $50,000 civil penalty to the U.S. government.
The settlement resolves a lawsuit the Justice Department brought in November, accusing the ride-hailing giant of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. Uber’s practice is to charge a wait-time fee two minutes after a driver arrives at a pickup location. The lawsuit alleged that Uber charged a fee even when it was clear that passengers needed extra time because of a disability.
Uber must advertise the wait-time fee waiver program and train customer service representatives about the program and refund process, according to the settlement.
“This agreement sends a strong message that Uber and other ride-sharing companies will be held accountable if their services discriminate against people with disabilities,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a statement.
An Uber spokesman said Monday that riders can request refunds for wait-time fees on the app or on Uber’s website.
“It has long been our policy to refund wait-time fees for riders with a disability when they alerted us that they were charged, and prior to this matter being filed we made changes so that any rider who shares that they have a disability would have wait-time fees waived automatically,” he said.
Also according to the settlement, Uber denies it is a transportation provider or a provider of taxi services subject to the ADA. The company also denies it discriminated against riders and does not admit wrongdoing, liability or fault, the settlement says.
Uber shares were up more than 6% in Monday trading. They are down about 45% year to date, while the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.84% has fallen about 19% so far this year.