Uber’s list of roadblocks got longer on Tuesday when the district attorneys for San Francisco and Los Angeles said they had sued it and fellow car service Lyft for misleading consumers on multiple counts.
The charges against Uber include that it claimed, wrongly, to conduct “industry leading” background checks on drivers, collected a $1 “Safe Rides Fee” from customers related to those checks, and operated illegally at airports in California. Lyft was hit with similar claims and agreed to settle for $500,000. Uber, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said, has “not been cooperative.” (Uber is also currently facing a lawsuit in Portland, Oregon, was banned in Spain and Thailand on Tuesday, and was kicked out of New Delhi over the weekend.)
The most interesting point in all of this, as Mike Isaac notes over at the New York Times, is that services like Uber and Lyft have heavily promoted their background checks as “often more rigorous” than those done by taxis, while simultaneously fighting legislation that would make sure background checks for on-demand ride services were held to the same standard as those done by the taxi industry:
In Colorado, Uber spent about $60,000 on lobbyists to support legislation that in June made the state one of the first to legalize companies like Uber and Lyft. That law does not require such drivers to undergo the same strict fingerprint checks required of taxi and limousine drivers.
In May, Illinois legislators passed two bills, supported by the taxi industry, that more heavily regulated ride-sharing services, including requiring state-conducted background checks for drivers.
After the bills were passed, Uber hired lobbyists, including Jack Lavin, the former chief of staff of Governor Quinn. In August, the governor vetoed the bills, saying the industry “is best regulated at the local level.”
And in California, the home of the latest lawsuits, Isaac reports that Uber has spent more than $650,000 to lobby on transportation issues. A bill that would have required Uber and its peers to put their drivers through the same screenings and checks that taxi drivers undergo has since died.