Uber agrees to settle claims of misleading “safe ride fees”

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In this week’s article, we examine settlements reached by Uber Technologies, Inc. in two class actions, Philliben v. Uber Technologies, Inc., Case No.

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In this week’s article, we examine settlements reached by Uber Technologies, Inc. in two class actions, Philliben v. Uber Technologies, Inc., Case No. 3-14-cv-05615-JST, Stipulation of Settlement (N.D. Cal.) and Mena v. Uber Technologies, Inc. involving the imposition of misleading “safe ride fees” in California. In addition, we will also examine a settlement between Uber and the District Attorneys of Los Angeles and San Francisco in The People of the State of California v. Uber Technologies, Inc., Case No: CGC-14-543120 (April 7, 2016), also involving “safe ride fees”.

Travel Law Update

Zika, Zika, Zika

In McNeil & Victor, First U.S. Death Tied to Zika Is Reported in Puerto Rico, nytimes.com (4/29/2016) it was noted that “A Puerto Rican man died from complications of the Zika virus earlier this year, the first reported death attributed to the disease in the United States. The victim, a man in his 70s, died in February from internal bleeding as a result of a rare immune reaction to an earlier Zika infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”.

Crimes On Tourists In Thailand

In Steinmetz, Crimes on Tourists: Don’t trust the media in Thailand, www.eturbonews.com (5/1/2016) it was noted “Thailand is known to be a world class travel and tourism destination with an image of peace, smiling people, white sandy beaches…A recent brutal assault on three British tourists during the Thai New Year celebration known as Songkran last month painted a very different picture”.

Tigers In Thailand

In Paddock, Thai Officials Battle Buddhist Monks Over Tigers’ Fate, nytimes.com (5/1/2016) it was noted that “Saira Tahir, a London lawyer, waved a bamboo pole with a plastic bag affixed to the end high in the air. A 200-pound tiger leapt and swatted it like a house cat battling a string toy. For her $140 premium admission, Ms. Tahir also bathed a tiger, bottle-fed a cub and posed for a photo with a tiger’s head in her lap…Part Buddhist monastery and part petting zoo, the Tiger Temple in western Thailand has long been the bane of conservationists and animal rights activists who accuse it of abuse and exploitation even as it offers tourists an Edenesque wildlife fantasy”.

TSA Racial Profiling?

In Nixon, Minnesota T.S.A. Manager Says He Was Told to Target Somali-Americans, nytimes.com (4/27/2016) it was noted that “A Transportation Security Administration manager here said he was instructed by his supervisor to provide the names of Somali-American leaders visiting the agency’s local office so they could be screened against national security databases for terrorist ties, a disclosure that quickly drew accusations of racial profiling”.

Airbnb Stopped In Berlin

In Payton, Berlin stops Airbnb renting apartments to tourists to protect affordable housing, independent.co.uk (5/2/2016) it was noted that “Website’s listings in German capital fell by 40 per cent in the last month. The law was passed in 2014, but with a two-year transition period, that ended on April 30 AFP Berlin has banned tourists from renting entire apartments through Airbnb and its competitors in an attempt to protect affordable housing. With the help of heavy fines, the German city’s authorities are hoping to protect the property supply and keep rents as low as possible. After the success of the various online rental portals, the number of properties available for long-term rental periods has fallen markedly”.

Washington’s Subway Dangerous

In Fandos, Washington Metro System Failed to Learn From Accidents, Report Finds, nytimes.com (5/3/2016) it was noted that “The capital region’s subway system has failed to adequately learn from a series of dangerous and sometimes fatal episodes in recent years, making ‘little or no progress’ toward instituting a culture of safety, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded on Tuesday. The assessment came as the board discussed the findings of a more than yearlong investigation into a fatal instance of smoke filing a tunnel in January 2015″.

Cruise Ship Docks In Cuba

In Burnett, Cruise Ship From Miami Docks in Cuba Ending Decades-Old Freeze, nytimes.com (5/2/2016) it was noted that “The first cruise ship in nearly 40 years to sail across the Florida Straits from Miami to Havana docked in the Cuban capital on Monday, cutting a 90-mile ribbon of water that for years was a symbol of the political gulf between the two countries”.

Cruise Ship Quarantined

In Outbreak: Cruise ship quarantined in Virginia, etrubonews.com (4/29/2016) it was noted that “CDC reports that a cruise ship, operated by Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, has been quarantined at the Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center at Nauticus in Norfolk, due to outbreak of norovirus. According to CDC, 153 passengers and 6 crew members of Fred Olsen Cruise’s Balmoral have reported vomiting and diarrhea symptoms during the ship’s voyage”.

Alligator Wrestling, Anyone?

In Turkewitz, Alligator Wrestling in Colorado? A Draw for Thrill Seekers, and Critics, nytimes.com (5/5/2016) it was noted that “Residents call the San Luis Valley, a vast alpine desert in Southern Colorado, one of the weirdest patches of the West. Sparsely populated and largely free of light pollution, the valley lays claim to more than a dozen spiritual centers, a U.F.O. watchtower and a roadside attraction called the Colorado Gators Reptile Park. Here, the headline activity is the alligator wrestling course, a three-hour endeavor in which novices wrangle carnivorous reptiles with names like Pitbull, Darth Gator and Sir Chomps-a-lot. The cost: $100″.

Airlines Record Profits

In Jansen, Airlines report record profits even as customer complaints soar, usatoday.com (5/3/2016) it was noted that “Cheap fuel prices juiced record profits for U.S. airlines last year even as customer complaints soared over cramped flights and mounting fees. The 24 U.S. passenger airlines logged a record $2.6 billion in profits, more than three times the industry’s after-tax earnings of $7.5 billion reported in 2014…Fuel prices averaged 35% lower than the previous year…While airlines’ financial books look robust, passengers grumble about lost bags, deceptive ticket, prices, poor customer service and shrinking seats and legroom. Travelers filed 20,170 formal complaints last year, up from 15,539 in 2014″.

The Flight Of The Lions

In Bromwich, Airlift Is Sending 33 Lions From South American Circuses to African Sanctuary, nyti.ms/1T6HMF9 (4/28/2016) it was noted that “In what is being called the largest lion airlift ever, 33 circus lions-together weighing more than 10,000 pounds-will begin the long trip from South America to South Africa on Friday. The journey is being coordinated by Animal Defenders International, an animal rights group, which negotiated their release and is raising money to pay for their flight. They will be taken to Johannesburg from Lima, Peru before reaching the final destination: the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary in Limpopo, South Africa”.

Rental Car Insurance

In Peterson, Do You Really Need Rental Car Insurance? 8 Things to Know, nytimes.com (3/1/2016) it was noted that “It’s been ingrained in me that buying to the rental company’s insurance is a waste of money…Besides, I thought nothing had ever gone wrong. And then something went wrong. One minute I was on my way to an afternoon tasting on a Kona coffee farm, the next I was no a rocky shoulder with two flat tires in an area with no cellphone service and few houses, trying to find some way to call for help. In the ensuing hours and days, I learned some valuable lessons about what happens when you damage your rental car”.

Travel Law Article: Uber’s Safe Ride Fees

The Two Class Actions

In Graham, Uber Settles Class Actions Safety Claims, therecorder.com (2/11/2016) it was reported that Uber agreed to settle two San Francisco class actions [Philliben v. Uber and Mena v. Uber] for $28.5 million. These class actions were brought by Uber customers who challenged the way in which Uber advertized its services and who paid safe ride fees [fee was “roughly $1 to $2 charged on Uber rides such as UberX and Uber XL”] “which Uber claimed went to support its ‘industry leading’ background-check process’”. The safe ride fees will be renamed “‘booking fee’ and (will be applied) to both safety and operational costs. ‘This is similar to the approach that Lyft has taken’, the company noted”.

The District Attorneys Case

In Ruiz, Uber Agrees to Settle DA Suits Over Safety Practices, therecorder.com (4/7/2016) it was noted that in December of 2014 the District Attorneys of Los Angeles and San Francisco jointly filed a complaint claiming that Uber “misled consumers by advertising the ‘safest rides on the road’ coupled with ‘industry leading background checks’. The complaint argued that, without fingerprinting, Uber couldn’t make such a statement, and that the company’s $1-$2 ‘Safe Rides Fee’ was misleading and should be returned to customers”.

The Stipulation Of Judgment

In A Stipulated Judgment And Permanent Injunction dated April 7, 2016 it was noted, inter alia, that:

Misrepresentations About Safety

“6. Pursuant to Business and Professions Code section 17203 and 17535, Defendants are hereby subject to the following mandatory and prohibitory injunctive provisions related to their representations of the public about the safety of the transportation arrang3ed through the use of their services and the measures Defendants take to ensure customer safety”.

“A. Defendants shall not make any false or misleading representations or material omission, whether in the form of a comparison or otherwise, regarding the safety of the transportation arranged through the use of their services, or the measures Defendants take to ensure customer safety”.

Criminal History And Background Checks

“B. In addition…in any representation regarding the characteristics of Defendants’ criminal history and motor vehicle record background checks for California drivers, made by Defendants to the public, including but not limited to representations of Defendants’ website, blogs, smartphone application, emails, text messages or advertising regardless of any form:”

Disqualifications Of Drivers

“(I) Defendants shall not list any offense type that does not result in automatic disqualification of a person as a driver during the initial screening process in California without explaining the disqualification criteria, unless the exception to the disqualification is based upon the ability of the potential driver to produce a Certification f Rehabilitation…or Pardon…or equivalent documents issued by another state or the federal government;

Screening Against Arrests

“(ii) Defendants shall not represent that they screen against arrests for any instances where Defendants actually screen only against conviction; and”

Time Periods

“(iii) Defendants shall identify the time period covered by the criminal history and motor vehicle record background check report Defendants use to screen potential drivers. For all offense types that are disqualifying, Defendants shall identify any time period used for disqualification purposes”.

Prohibited Descriptions

C. In addition…Defendants shall not use the following terms in connection with their criminal history and motor vehicle record background checks in California: ‘best available’, ‘industry leading’, ‘leads the industry’, ‘gold standard’. ‘safest’, ‘best-in-class’, ‘safest ride on the road’, ‘strictest safety standards possible’, ‘safest experience on the road’, ‘best in class safety and accountability’, ‘safest transportation option’, ‘background checks that exceed any local or national standard’, ‘as far back as the law allows’, ‘the maximum allowable by California law’, or ‘safest possible platform’”.
Sex Offender Registry

“D. In addition…Defendants shall not represent that their criminal history background check process obtains information from the National Sex Offender Registry”.

Civil Penalties

“8. Defendants shall pay…a civil penalty in the sum of Twenty-Five Million Dollars ($25,000,000.00)”.

Justice Dickerson been writing about Travel Law for 40 years including his annually updated law books, Travel Law, Law Journal Press (2016) and Litigating International Torts in U.S. Courts, Thomson Reuters WestLaw (2016), and over 400 legal articles many of which are available at nycourts.gov/courts/9jd/taxcertatd.shtml. Justice Dickerson is also author of Class Actions: The Law of 50 States, Law Journal Press (2016). For additional travel law news and developments, especially, in the member states of the EU see IFTTA.org

Justice Dickerson has been writing about travel law for 39 years including his annually updated law books, Travel Law, Law Journal Press (2016) and Litigating International Torts in U.S. Courts, Thomson Reuters WestLaw (2016), and over 400 legal articles many of which are available at nycourts.gov/courts/9jd/taxcertatd.shtml. Justice Dickerson is also the author of Class Actions: The Law of 50 States, Law Journal Press (2016). For additional travel law news and developments, especially in the member states of the EU, see IFTTA.org.

This article may not be reproduced without the permission of Thomas A. Dickerson.

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