Uber headquarters in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg/AP)

Uber asks regulators for do-over on $7.6 million fine

Ride-hail company Uber was found “in contempt” of California regulators last month, and ordered to pay a $7.6 million fine.

Uber did pay that fine, according to the California Public Utilities Commission, which was levied for failing to disclose data about its service — including when Uber trips were ordered, where and for how much.

Now, Uber is arguing it shouldn’t have been fined at all.

In legal filings submitted to the CPUC Feb. 12, made public this week, Uber argued it complied with orders to report ride data and therefore should not have been fined.

The company called for a rehearing, essentially a “do-over” on the decision.

The CPUC regulates so-called “rideshares” in California, like Uber and Lyft, which are legally called Transportation Network Companies. Uber was required to submit data about its trips and accessibility to the disability community as part of ongoing changes to the regulations around Uber, Lyft and other TNCs.

The next step is for the request for rehearing to be reviewed by the agency’s legal division, said Christopher Chow, a spokesman for the CPUC said.

The $7.6 million fine was specifically levied against Rasier-CA, a subsidiary of Uber. But in legal filings, CPUC administrative law judge Robert Mason argued there were few material differences between Rasier and Uber.

Attorneys of Rasier, and Uber, wrote a 104 page document with numerous arguments. Among them, the attorneys said the CPUC’s regulatory standards shifted — that it asked for one set of data, then penalized Uber for not providing a different set.

Despite Uber’s protests, its attorneys wrote, “the Commission persists in fining (Uber) $7.6 million by making assumptions and reaching conclusions based on an incomplete record, a misapplication of the law, and a misunderstanding of evidence never subjected to explanation or cross-examination.”

The CPUC also took Uber to task for not providing data on its disability accessible trips, including information on wheelchair accessibility and whether Uber drivers allowed seeing-eye dogs to board vehicles.

Arguing against being penalized for failing to disclose this data, the “rideshare” giant asserted it was fined $3.2 million by the CPUC for not disclosing a lawsuit. In this suit, blind riders alleged Uber drivers did not allow seeing-eye dogs into vehicles.

Uber’s attorneys wrote the company had no disability accessible vehicles during the time period that the CPUC asked for data, and any report of accessible vehicles “would have contained only zeroes.”

Criticizing a requirement to report data it asserts did not exist, Uber’s attorneys wrote “The regulatory process should not be a game of ‘gotcha,’ and the $3.2 million fine lacks basis in the record or the law.”

Robert Mason, an administrative law judge at the CPUC, wrote in his January ruling that although Uber did provide data, it provided so much data, in such great volume, as to make it a herculean task to sift through — and that when the CPUC asked Uber for more specific information, the company did not comply.

Mason found Uber in contempt, he wrote, because it “failed to comply with the laws of this state and further misled this Commission by an artifice or false statement of law by asserting multiple legal defenses that were unsound.”

Uber is valued by investors at as much as $60 billion, according to Bloomberg News. The CPUC is expected to decide on new regulations for TNC’s such as Uber and Lyft later this month.

California Public Utilities CommissionCPUCTransitUber

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