Uber sued by US Justice Department for allegedly overcharging people with disability

People with disability are allegedly charged extra fees if they require more time to enter a Uber vehicle because of their disability.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor
Image: Getty Images

The US Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against Uber, accusing the ride-hailing giant of overcharging people with disabilities.

According to the Justice Department, Uber charges "wait time" fees to passengers with disability who need more time to enter a car, which it claims is in breach of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination by private transportation companies like Uber.

In the Justice Department's complaint, it said Uber allegedly failed to reasonably modify its wait time fee policy for passengers who, because of disability, need more than two minutes to get in an Uber car.

For one instance of alleged discrimination, a passenger with a manual wheelchair was charged a wait time fee for every ride she took since May last year. 

Another passenger, who has cerebral palsy, was allegedly charged a wait time fee nearly every time he used Uber. The passenger then contacted Uber's customer service about the wait time fees which led to Uber initially refunding some of those fees. However, after he received a certain amount of refunds, a customer service associate allegedly informed him that he had reached the maximum amount of refunds and would no longer receive any additional refunds.

"Uber's policies and practices of charging wait time fees based on disability have harmed many passengers and potential passengers with disabilities throughout the country," the Justice Department said.

As part of the lawsuit, the department is requesting for a court order to compel Uber to stop discriminating against individuals with disabilities; modify its wait time fee policy to comply with the ADA; train its staff and drivers on the ADA; pay money damages to people subjected to the illegal wait time fees; and pay a civil penalty to vindicate the public's interest in eliminating disability discrimination.

According to Uber drivers who appeared before an Australian Senate committee last week, there is also currently no recourse or compensation provided to drivers when their accounts are wrongly deactivated.

Two Uber drivers recounted their experiences of having their accounts on the platform wrongly deactivated as part of testimonies to the Senate committee. One driver's account was allegedly deactivated for five days when a passenger falsely claimed that the driver was being violent, while another said their account was deactivated for a day because one of their passengers filed a complaint about feeling uncomfortable from wearing a mask during the ride.

The Senate Committee is currently leading an inquiry into whether Australia's gig economy workers are being paid fairly and if there are sufficient health and safety protections in place for them.

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