Thursday, 23 November, 2017

Recode: Uber faces USA class-action suit for driver sexual assault, violence

Smith Collection  Gado  Getty Smith Collection Gado Getty
Preston Stone | 15 November, 2017, 02:25

Two anonymous women filed a complaint against Uber in a Northern California district court on Tuesday, with hopes of attaining class-action status on behalf of customers in the USA who were "subject to rape, sexual assault, physical violence or gender-motivated violence or harassment by their Uber driver in the last four years".

Earlier this year, a woman raped by an Uber driver in India sued the company.

The women seeking class-action status asked for compensation for suffering but also for a judge to order an injunction to force Uber to change its policies including implementing stricter driver background checks. The complaint also claims this supposed negligence creates a unsafe environment for customers who are often intoxicated and vulnerable when they use the service.

In a statement provided to The Register, Wigdor LLP attorney Jeanne M. Christensen, representing the plaintiffs, said the recent #MeToo campaign on Twitter has revealed "the heinous acts" that female riders have endured during Uber rides.

The complaint argues that the victims' claims are not affected by arbitration clauses in Uber's terms of service with riders, because under California Supreme Court decisions, "Uber can not cause consumers to waive a statutory right to seek public injunctive relief in any forum". It seeks safety measures including driver background checks using fingerprints and a panic button for the Uber app that alerts the company and police.

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Internal Uber customer support documents I previously obtained in 2016 showed that when searching the term "sexual assault" there were more than 6,000 driver or rider complaints that met that query. Another Uber driver allegedly picked up passengers between shootings. Officials in London also revoked the company's license in 2017 over similar concerns, though Uber is still allowed to operate in the city while the decision is under appeal.

An Uber spokesperson said the company received the complaint today and is now reviewing it.

This lawsuit comes as the ride-hail company is working to revamp its image after a tumultuous year wrought with public scandals.

We've embedded the legal complaint below.

Uber, however, insisted that only 170 of those had claims of sexual assault and that the rest may have been "reports from riders who were making claims about sexual assault on other transport services, discussions about sexual assaults in the news, and reports about passengers who got into cars that were not Uber vehicles and were then sexually assaulted".

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