BUSINESS

Uber fined $7.6 million by California utilities commission

The California Public Utilities Commission agreed Thursday with a judge’s recommendation to fine Uber $7.6 million for failing to meet data reporting requirements in 2014.

Uber will appeal the decision, but has agreed to pay the fine to avoid a 30-day suspension of its license in its home state.

“While we are disappointed by the decision, we look forward to making our case to the California Court of Appeals,” an Uber spokesperson said in a prepared statement. “In the meantime, we will pay the fine and continue to work in good faith with the Commission.”

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Although the fine is relatively small for a company valued at $62.5 billion, it underscores the regulatory and competitive conflict Uber’s business model repeatedly faces across the globe.

Uber competes with the taxi industry by contracting with drivers and connecting passengers through a smartphone app. The drivers use their own cars for the service.

Much of the tension swirling around Uber and other ride-hailing companies is whether or not they should face the same regulatory scrutiny as traditional taxis.

California thinks they should. In June, a state labor commissioner decided that an Uber driver was an employee and not a contractor -- a ruling that was non-binding, but could set a precedent for drivers to ultimately demand more perks and pay.

A month later, an administrative law judge recommended that the San Francisco company be fined and suspended from operating in California for the failure to report driver data.

Uber filed an appeal last August, and a modified decision was made public Wednesday, recommending an even higher fine of $7,626,000, plus a $1,000 contempt fine.

The PUC says driver data is necessary to determine whether or not Uber is serving all manner of passengers in any neighborhood. Taxis must also comply with those rules. 

Uber’s main rival, Lyft, has complied with regulators.

Uber has since given the PUC all requested data, though it disagrees with how the $7.6-million fine was calculated.

Follow me on Twitter: @dhpierson

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UPDATES

11:35 a.m.: This story was updated to include Wednesday's modified decision recommending a higher fine for Uber.

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