Prosecutors from San Francisco and Los Angeles continue to say that ride-hailing service Uber misleads its riders on the rigor of its background checks. Uber’s Los Angeles-area drivers included people driving under false names and those convicted of sex offenses, kidnapping and murder, the prosecutors said.
The revelations about the drivers come in an amended complaint filed Wednesday, in a suit the district attorneys originally filed against Uber in December over allegedly misleading business practices. Prosecutors settled a similar suit in December against Lyft, an Uber rival, for $250,000.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the language with which Uber describes the rigor of its driver background checks. After hearing from prosecutors, Uber has softened its claims over the past year, downshifting from saying it has “industry-leading” background checks and “safety you can trust” to its current message, which is that “every system of background checks that is available today has its flaws.” Lyft made similar adjustments to its language as part of the settlement agreement.
“We learned of systemic failures in Uber’s background checks,” said San Francisco district attorney George Gascon. “We have learned they have drivers who are convicted sex offenders, thieves, burglars, kidnappers and a convicted murder.” Those drivers are just from Los Angeles, he added. “This is only really scratching the surface.”
One Uber driver cited in the complaint was convicted of second-degree murder in 1982, paroled in 2008 and applied to drive with Uber under a different name than the one on his criminal record. (Uber has since blocked him from driving.) Other driver felony convictions include committing lewd or lascivious acts against a child under 14 (in 1999), kidnapping for ransom with a firearm (1994), assault with firearm (1999), assault with firearm (1994), grand theft and fraud (2010), robbery (2006), identity theft (2012), welfare fraud (2009), burglary (2011), and sale of methamphetamine (2012). The list also includes five misdemeanor drunken driving convictions from the last seven years, which Uber claims to block.
Prosecutors emphasized that the case is a consumer protection suit. ”The background check process that Uber and Lyft are doing follows California law,” Gascon said. “The problem we have is the misleading information that is being provided by Uber.”
Many of the drivers’ felony convictions cited in the complaint were from more than seven years ago, which is as far back as Uber’s background checks go. The company claims that seven years is “the maximum allowed by law,” but prosecutors disagree. They say that California law allows background check providers to report older crimes if the person has been paroled or released in the last seven years. Uber also relies on a sex offender registry that is missing about 30,000 names in California because those individuals have petitioned to have their names removed.
“We understand that there are strongly held views about the rehabilitation of offenders,” Uber said in a blog post on safety written in July. The company cites the California State Legislature’s decision that seven years “strikes the right balance” between rider safety and giving ex-offenders a chance to rebuild their lives.
Uber said it disagreed with prosecutors that Livescan or fingerprint-based checks are better than Uber’s name-based background checks. ”The reality is that neither is 100% foolproof,” Uber said in a statement. The company said that in 2014, at least 600 drivers who previously worked as taxi drivers in San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco failed Uber’s background check process, including dozens who had convictions for sex offenses, DUIs, child endangerment or assault or battery. Those cities require Livescan fingerprint tests for all taxi drivers.
Reposted from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ellenhuet/2015/08/19/uber-background-check-lawsuit-convicted-felons-prosecutors/