California fines Uber $7 million for not handing over service data

Regulators seek data including how often Uber complies with requests from people with disabilities

Uber's mobile app.

Uber's mobile app.

California regulators have fined Uber more than US$7.3 million after the company failed to hand over data related to Uber's operations under an agreement between the state and the company.

In 2013, California's Public Utilities Commission issued regulations for mobile ride service providers like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, which included the requirement that the companies submit annual reports containing certain information related to rides and trip data. The data is designed to help regulators assess the impact of the companies' operations.

While other ride-hailing startups have since complied with the data reporting requirement, the first report Uber submitted this past September did not contain all the necessary information, the commission said in a ruling issued Wednesday.

In addition to the fine, the commission has suspended Uber's license to operate as a Transportation Network Company in California. Uber has 30 days to appeal. It will be allowed to operate as long as the company files an appeal within that period, or a CPUC commissioner requests a review. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Though Uber produced some information, it still hasn't handed over three types of required data, the ruling said.

For one thing, the commission seeks the number and percentage of Uber customers who have requested vehicles accessible to people with disabilities. More broadly, it wants to know the date, time and zip code for every Uber ride in California that a driver accepted or rejected. And for each reported problem with a driver, the commission wants to know the cause of the incident.

Since September, Uber has called some of the commission's data demands "unduly burdensome, cumulative and overly broad." The company has also said that producing certain data would disclose Uber's trade secrets. The commission has refuted these objections.

Uber and Lyft have been sued for allegedly denying service to passengers with wheelchairs and guide dogs, and blind people. The ruling on Wednesday said Uber argued that it could not hand over data pertaining to ride accessibility because it did not have an accessible-vehicle ride feature in its app during the reporting period.

But Uber still should have included allegations and complaints from people with disabilities in its data, the commission said.

Recently, in select cities including Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., Uber has started to roll out new forms of its service to make it more accessible to people with disabilities.

Uber's dispute with California is not the first time the company has squabbled with state officials over data reporting rules. After initial protests, the company has been forced to hand over similar types of data in Massachusetts and New York.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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