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Uber Settles Lawsuit Over Driver Background Checks

Uber claims its background checks on potential drivers are the most comprehensive in the industry. Turns out that's not exactly true. And it's gonna cost ridesharing company $10 million.

This week Uber settled a lawsuit filed by San Francisco and Los Angeles prosecutors over the quality of its criminal screening for drivers, and may have to pay more if it doesn't institute new background check procedures. So what was Uber doing, and what does it need to do now?

The Definition of Safe

According to the lawsuit, Uber was merely searching criminal and motor vehicle databases with potential drivers' names, and looking at the past seven years of results. Taxi drivers, who must undergo fingerprint checks for past criminal convictions, are subject to more scrutiny. Prosecutors claimed Uber failed discover criminal histories for 25 drivers in California, including those of several registered sex offenders and one convicted murderer.

Uber had already stopped asserting its background checks were "industry leading" and changed their "safe ride fee" to a "booking fee," all as part of a previous lawsuit brought by customers. Now the company will make additional changes to its screening process or face an additional $15 million penalty. Uber's primary ride-sharing competition, Lyft, settled a similar lawsuit last year for $250,000.

Consumer Protection, Literally

Rider fears had been stoked by a slew of violent episodes involving Uber drivers, and hit a fever pitch following an Uber driver's deadly shooting spree in Kalamazoo in February. In that case, Jason Brian Dalton didn't harm any of his riders, instead killing six people and wounding two more in three separate attacks on bystanders, all in between dropping off and picking up fares.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón was pleased with the settlement: "It sends a clear message to all businesses, and to startups in particular, that in the quest to quickly obtain market share, laws designed to protect consumers cannot be ignored."

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