Justice Department suing Uber for charging ‘wait time’ fees to people with disabilities

Nation/world

The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday announced it filed a lawsuit against Uber for charging “wait time” fees to people with disabilities, a move that the company called “surprising.”

Uber’s “wait time” fees start two minutes after the Uber driver arrives at the pickup location, and are charged until the car begins its trip.

The lawsuit, filed in California, alleges that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not reasonably modifying its wait time fee policy for passengers who, because of disability, need more time to enter a car.

That includes passengers who may use a wheelchair or walker, or passengers who are blind and need more time to safely walk to the car.

“Uber’s wait time fees take a significant toll on people with disabilities,” Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds for the Northern District of California said in a statement. “Passengers with disabilities who need additional boarding time are entitled to access ridesharing services without discrimination.”

In a statement to KTLA, Uber called the lawsuit “surprising and disappointing,” adding that the company refunds wait time fees for riders with disabilities who alert the company of the charge.

“Wait time fees are charged to all riders to compensate drivers after two minutes of waiting, but were never intended for riders who are ready at their designated pickup location but need more time to get into the car,” Uber said in a statement. “We recognize that many riders with disabilities depend on Uber for their transportation needs, which is why we had been in active discussions with the DOJ about how to address any concerns or confusion before this surprising and disappointing lawsuit.”

Uber said it implemented a recent change last week that allows any rider “who certifies they are disabled” to have the fees automatically waived. 

The company also said that wheelchair-accessible (WAV) trips and Uber Assist trips do not have any wait time fees by default. 

“We fundamentally disagree that our policies violate the ADA and will keep improving our products to support everyone’s ability to easily move around their communities,” the company said.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said the lawsuit is meant to bring Uber into compliance with the mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act, “while sending a powerful message that Uber cannot penalize passengers with disabilities simply because they need more time to get into a car.”

The Department of Justice asked the court to order Uber to modify its wait time fee policy to comply with the Disabilities Act, and to train its staff and drivers on the law, and pay money damages to people subjected to the wait time fees, as well as a civil penalty.

Those who believe they may have been a victim of disability discrimination by Uber because they were charged wait time fees are asked to call 833-591-0425 or email Uber.Fee@usdoj.gov

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