Uber's background checks are not working, according to two California District Attorneys.
The district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles have filed an update to a complaint originally filed in December. The suit's overarching claim is that Uber has been continually misleading customers over the efficacy of its background checks. The amended complaints now contains specific allegations – most notably that Uber has allowed multiple registered sex offenders, burglars, and a convicted murderer through the cracks.
Uber calls its background screening “rigorous,” saying “all Uber ridesharing and livery partners must go through a rigorous background check. The three-step screening we’ve developed across the United States, which includes county, federal and multi-state checks, has set a new standard. These checks go back 7 years, the maximum allowable by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. We apply this comprehensive and new industry standard consistently across all Uber products, including uberX.”
But the DAs take issues with this, saying it's woefully misleading.
"The statement fails to explain any disqualification criteria, leading consumers to believe that Uber eliminates drivers who have any kind of criminal convictions. The lack of any specific time limits in the statement also amplifies the impression that Uber’s background checks go as far back as legally possible," they say in the amended complaint.
"Systemic failures in Uber’s background check process came to light through the
discovery process in this enforcement action, including the fact that in Los Angeles alone, registered sex offenders, a kidnapper, identity thieves, burglars, and a convicted murderer had passed Uber’s 'industry leading' background check."
The cities claim that Uber's background checks are not as effective as the fingerprint-based ones used by traditional taxi companies.
"Uber’s representations concerning the quality of its background check process are untrue or misleading. Contrary to Uber’s multiple representations concerning the superiority of its background check process, including but not limited to representations that it uses a background check process that “leads the industry,” and that its background check process is 'often more rigorous than what is required to become a taxi driver,' Uber’s background check process does not provide the level of security provided by the fingerprint-based background check process employed for performing background checks on taxi drivers in California’s most populous cities."
According to the New York Times, one person Uber let through was a man convicted of murder in 1982. He was paroled in 2008 and got a job driving for Uber using an assumed name.
More from the Times:
One driver was convicted of felony sexual exploitation of children in Wyoming in 2005, and another of “felony kidnapping for ransom with a firearm” in 1994. Other drivers were convicted of charges like robbery, assault with a firearm, identity theft and driving under the influence. Several were convicted of more minor charges, like welfare fraud.
San Francisco DA George Gascón says this is "really only scratching the surface."
The original complaint lays out a sharply-worded rebuke of Uber's entire business model:
"Uber’s business model depends upon convincing its customers it is safe to get into a stranger’s car despite its admission in its terms and conditions through at least April 7, 2015, that its customers 'may be exposed to situations involving third party providers that are potentially unsafe, offensive, harmful to minors, or otherwise objectionable,'" reads the complaint.
"In a successful effort to do so, Uber makes a number of representations on its webpages, in communications with customers, and in the media designed to create the impression that Uber does everything it can to ensure its customers’ safety. The representations about safety contain true statements, false statements of fact, and statements that are misleading, either on their own, or when viewed in the context of the rest of Uber’s safety representations.
"Uber’s false and misleading statements are so woven into the fabric of Uber’s safety narrative that they render Uber’s entire safety message misleading. Viewed separately or together, the representations are likely to mislead consumers into believing that Uber does everything it can to ensure their safety and that Uber’s background check process will capture all of the criminal history of an applicant that would result in that person being disqualified from driving a for-hire vehicle, whether under the criteria from Uber’s regulator imposed by law, or under Uber’s own disqualification criteria, or under the most stringent criteria applied by taxi regulators in any city."
Earlier this month a Dallas woman sued Uber for over $1 million, claiming Uber was negligent when they let a driver with a criminal record slip through the cracks. She says he drove her home, followed her inside, hit her in the back of the head, and raped her.
Image via Uber