Uber may face fine over handling of drunk-driving complaints

California regulators are pursuing a $1.1 million fine against Uber, alleging the ride-hailing service repeatedly failed to adhere to state policy of immediately suspending and investigating drivers reported as being drunk or under the influence of a substance. The ride-hailing giants need to strict about the implementation of this policy and include it within their apps and online to provide passengers with an option (call or messaging) to lodge complaints against drivers violating the same.

That's a flawed approach, the commission claims, as it's open to human error, and is contrary to CPUC's safety policy requiring prompt suspension as soon as a zero-tolerance complaint is filed.

Perhaps the most troubling detail: Within an hour of being the subject of a zero tolerance complaint, 64 Uber drivers were still picking up passengers. Companies are also required to promptly suspend those drivers and to conduct an investigation.

In at least 25 instances, Uber failed to suspend or investigate a driver after three or more complaints, the order states.

"Failure to suspend a driver promptly after receiving a zero tolerance complaint is a serious violation of the TNC rules because it places passengers and the public at immediate risk", the regulators wrote.

The 154 complaints reviewed were part of a larger pool of 2,047 driving-under-the-influence complaints the Uber subsidiary received that year. It "deactivated" 574 of them, meaning it barred them from working.

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The CPED said that Uber did not report all of the drunken-driving complaints to the commission, either. So, this means the state's data, which has taken into account only 154 complaints, can be viewed as incomplete.

In "many instances", regulators found no evidence that Uber followed up at all with a DUI complaint.

The investigation order, issued by the consumer protection and enforcement division of the commission on Tuesday (11 April), contains the drunken-driving findings.

"We have zero tolerance for any impaired driving as outlined in our Community Guidelines", an Uber spokesperson said late Thursday in an emailed statement.

The consumer division is recommending a penalty of $7,500 per violation, for a total of $1,132,500. As the LA Times notes, an administrative judge will hear arguments from both sides before either approving or rejecting the fees.