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Uber has agreed to pay millions of dollars in compensation for allegedly violating the civil rights of passengers with disabilities and will modify its fee policies going forward.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced that the San Francisco-based rideshare company settled a lawsuit on Monday that was filed in November 2021, alleging that the company had charged wait time fees in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Uber established the wait fees in April 2016, charging riders a fee after their driver waited for more than two minutes during pickup.
The justice department’s complaint said that Uber failed to modify the policy for customers who are disabled and need more time to safely get into a vehicle. The complaint said the fees were charged even when the company was aware a customer’s need for more time was based on their disability.
“Ensuring equal access to transportation for those with disabilities is an important goal of the ADA,” said U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds of the Northern District of California in a statement.
Uber will credit 65,000 users double the amount they were charged in illegal fees and will also pay over $1.7 million to more than 1,000 users who had previously complained to the company about the fees, according to the justice department.
“Ensuring equal access to transportation for those with disabilities is an important goal of the ADA.”Stephanie M. Hinds, U.S. Attorney
Under the two-year agreement, Uber will waive wait time fees for riders who certify that they or someone they travel with frequently has a disability that requires more time to get into a vehicle. The company agreed to ensure refunds are easily available to anyone who is incorrectly charged a fee and agreed to train customer service representatives about the refund process to make sure it is readily accessible.
In a statement, Carissa Simons, an Uber spokesperson, said that the company is pleased to have reached the settlement with the justice department, and said that some policy changes had been made prior to the lawsuit.
“We are always working to improve accessibility for all users and encourage riders with a disability to utilize our self-declaration form to have wait time fees waived,” Simons said.
To request a wait time refund in the Uber app, select the receipt from the ride, then select “review my fees and fares,” then select “wait time fees and refunds.”
“People with disabilities should not be made to feel like second-class citizens or punished because of their disability, which is exactly what Uber’s wait time fee policy did,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This agreement sends a strong message that Uber and other ridesharing companies will be held accountable if their services discriminate against people with disabilities.”