California fines Uber $7.3 million and threatens license suspension

Uber has had another run-in with the law, with California issuing a $7.3 million fine and saying its license should be suspended until it complies with state reporting requirements.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has fined Uber $7.3 million, and said that the company should have its license suspended until the company conforms with state reporting requirements and the fine is paid.

Uber fell afoul of incomplete reporting to the CPUC in a breakdown of ride statistics for numbers of rides requested and accepted by zip code; the origin and destination zip codes for each trip and the amount paid or donated; the number and percentage of customers who requested accessible vehicles, and how often Uber could meet the request; and submitting a report on issues with drivers and causes of incidents, and the amount of insurance paid by any party other than Uber for each incident.

Although an Uber subsidiary, Rasier-CA, is named on the case, Judge Mason said in his judgment (PDF) that Uber and Rasier-CA should be treated as "the same for purposes of assessing fines and penalties", and noted that Rasier-CA reported gross revenue in excess of $40 million for 2014.

The suspension of Uber's license in California would come into effect 30 days after the judgment was handed down, and would remain until Uber is compliant in its reporting and has paid the $7.3 million fine -- provided Uber does not appeal the decision. CNET has reported that Uber will appeal the decision.

Uber's relationship with law and regulatory authorities around the world has often centered on whether the company is classed as a transportation business, and specifically, in some jurisdictions, as a taxi company.

Earlier this month in Indonesia, Uber was seeking a license to establish itself as an e-commerce company in order to avoid legal hurdles in the country.

"Uber is only a smartphone application," said Alan Jiann, head of Uber's operations in Indonesia, at the time. "We don't need a transportation license, as all we make is a smartphone app that connects riders to drivers."

Judge Mason disagreed with Uber's self-assessment, and said that each ride contributes to Uber's revenue, whereas app installation earns Uber no revenue at all.

"Despite Uber's attempt to distinguish itself from the transportation services by recasting itself as a technology company or a wireless service, the facts are unrefuted, and this commission has found that Uber is providing a transportation service as a facilitator," he said.

"In fact, revenues derived from the transportation services provided by Uber's subsidiaries, such as Rasier-CA, are the lifeblood of Uber's operations and its continued financial viability.

"In sum, Uber only makes money if the drivers signing up with Rasier-CA actually transport passengers."

In San Francisco, Uber has protested that it should be given access to taxi lanes, particularly on Market Street, even though it does not have a taxi license.

The French government ordered a nationwide suspension of UberPop earlier this month.

Mexico City sets rules for Uber, Cabify

Mexico City has imposed rules and fees for ride-sharing companies Uber and Cabify, following an uproar from taxi drivers. Uber welcomed the changes, but the capital's taxi drivers have complained that they would still be at a competitive disadvantage.

The rules say the app operators will have to contribute 1.5 percent from each ride to a special fund to improve taxi services. Drivers will not be allowed to accept cash payments.

Conditions have also been set for the type of cars that can be part of an app's fleet: They must be worth at least 200,000 pesos and have four doors, air conditioning, working seatbelts, and airbags.

Mexico City taxi drivers snarled traffic in a massive anti-Uber protest in May, complaining that app operators do not have to pay the huge fees that cabs are charged by the government.

Ruben Alcantara, leader of a large taxi association, said drivers would meet to decide how to respond on the "affront and trickery by the government".

But Uber said Mexico City is "making history".

"Mexico's capital -- one of the most complex cities in the world -- now has modern, forward-looking regulations echoing the principles of Uber's business model: The logic of supply and demand alongside a citizen's ability to choose how they move around their city," the company said.

Western Australia premier happy to use Uber

Uber is here to stay, according to Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett, who admitted he would have no hesitation in using the ride-sharing service.

The state government has softened its stance on the controversial business amid the prosecution of 20 Uber drivers for illegally operating a taxi in Perth.

Barnett said taking a hard-line position against Uber wouldn't work, and he was not about restricting choice for consumers.

"They basically ambushed the system," he told ABC Radio on Thursday. "They brought in something, and it's popular.

"My issue is fairness and public safety.

"I'd have no hesitation in using Uber if I wish to, but I'd use normal taxis as well."

Transport Minister Dean Nalder is expected to release a paper on taxi transport to Cabinet later this month.

In April, hundreds of taxi drivers parked their cars outside the WA parliament and refused to leave until the minister responded to their concerns about the effect Uber was having on their livelihoods.

With AAP