Getting into a vehicle with a complete stranger can be a bit intimidating. After all, there are several unknowns involved.
- does the driver have a terrifying criminal background?
- Do they have an up-to-date license?
- How about their insurance?
To make this issue worse, there is no way to gather all of this information before getting in the vehicle.
Uber decided to adjust their marketing strategy to eliminate this concern. They started advertising their “industry-leading” background checks on drivers. In order to provide proof of this, and further enhance the claim, Uber added a ‘Safe Rides Fee’ to the rideshare service.
Safe Rides Fee
The ‘safety’ fee was added in April 2014. Uber’s website explained that the charge was a way for riders to confirm the validity of their driver. Namely, riders were charged $1.00 for a background check and status update to be run on the Uber driver. This small fee was charged each time a rider needed to be transported somewhere. The proposed idea behind the fee was to give riders a sense of comfort when using the rideshare service.
Despite this, man riders inquired as to why the fee was necessary. After all, shouldn’t Uber be validating the credentials of a driver before they are allowed to drive? Furthermore, isn’t this process considered a mandatory expense for Uber doing business?
To settle the matter once and for all, a class-action lawsuit was initiated in December of 2014.
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Uber’s Safe Rides Fee Class-Action Lawsuit
Matthew Philliben and Bryon McKnight brought forward the original lawsuit. The pair began by addressing Uber’s claim of having “industry-leading” background checks. The rideshare company advertised that inquiries into each driver’s personal history consisted of thorough local and federal searches that ensured the safety of riders.
The plaintiffs claimed, however, that the vetting process that is required to start driving for Uber was completely insufficient. The bare minimum an Uber driver would need to start driving is their contact information, name, social security and driver’s license number. Other valuable information, such as a fingerprint check or in-person interviews, were not included in the hiring process. Such data is commonly collected and used in other businesses that employ independent contractors like Uber.
Philliben later dropped out of the lawsuit for an unknown reason. However, other class-action lawsuits have been brought against Uber for false advertising. Plaintiffs that have come forward since the initial lawsuit have agreed to band together in one joint claim. Previous individual attempts to sue were dismissed by the court.
Nevertheless, combining the class-action lawsuits has proven fruitful. The collective claim gained approval in August 2016. As of September 2017, the total settlement was estimated to be $32.5 million.
In addition to the monetary amount, other stipulations are set in place in regards to how Uber conducts business. New regulations as to how Uber advertises its background checks will be required. Certain descriptions, such as ‘industry-leading’, ‘best available’, and ‘safest ride on the road’ will no longer be legal if a settlement is reached.
With third-party sources claiming that Uber gained an extra $500 million in revenue for the Safe Rides Fee, it is easy to understand why the lawsuit is currently underway. Nevertheless, a final fairness hearing is set to be held February of 2018.
How Will the Uber Settlement Impact Me?
After the final hearing, a portion of the settlement will be administered to qualifying riders. Participants include those who used Uber’s App or website to use the service between January 1st, 2013 and January 31st, 2016. Class action lawsuit members that meet this criteria and live in either the United States or any of its territories may be entitled to a payment.
If you qualify for a portion of the settlement and have an active Uber account, the settlement will be issued to you as a credit on your account. Riders may request that funds be redirected to a Paypal or bank via an electronic check instead. To do so, be sure to file a Payment Election form online as soon as possible.
During the online claim process, you will be asked for your Class Member Identification Number. This information can be found in the email you were sent in regards to the lawsuit. The identification number is a marker that verifies the amount of money you paid for the service, when it was paid, and the amount you are owed. Without the ID number, you will be required to provide receipts for each ride. Keep in mind that you will not be able to save your progress while filing the claim.
Riders can anticipate a refund of $0.25 for the first instance of paying the Safe Rides Fee. For each time the fee was paid afterward, riders will be issued a payment of $0.05. Although the final refund per rider will vary based on the final number of participants involved in the lawsuit, the refund is expected to be about $1.07 on average.
To opt out of the settlement, class action lawsuit members will need to address the issue in writing. To do so, mail or email the Settlement Administrator by no later than 11:59 PM PST on January 8th, 2018.
Removing the Safe Rides Fee
Since it was administered, Uber has raised the price of the ‘Safe Rides Fee’ from $1.00 to $2.50 in some areas. With the Class Action Lawsuit in place, however, things appear to be changing in a positive direction. Uber has agreed to discontinue the ‘Safe Rides Fee’. The decision may improve driver salaries in the long run and attract new rideshare users.
What’s your take on Uber’s Safe Rides fee? Was it reasonable for Uber to charge this fee to riders? Share your thoughts in the comments below.