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Uber could face $1.1-million state fine for failing to investigate drivers accused of being intoxicated

Uber could face $1.1-million state fine for failing to investigate drivers accused of being intoxicated
Uber's headquarters in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

California's ride-hailing regulator is proposing a $1.1-million fine against Uber for allegedly failing to investigate or promptly suspend drivers who had drunk or drugged driving complaints filed against them.

The California Public Utilities Commission said in a legal filing released Wednesday that Uber hadn't taken appropriate action in 151 cases from August 2014 to August 2015 in violation of the state's zero-tolerance regulations against intoxicated drivers. The agency also alleged that the company's driving-under-the-influence policies are too lax to comply with state rules.

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State rules say ride-hailing companies must immediately suspend drivers after receiving a zero-tolerance complaint against them. But the agency's investigation found just three cases during that time period in which Uber suspended a driver named in a complaint and followed up with an investigation of the complaint.

Instead, the agency found 64 instances in which an Uber driver provided one or more rides within an hour after a passenger filed a complaint with the company. In many cases, the agency found no evidence that Uber responded at all several hours or even a day after a complaint was filed.

"Failure to suspend a driver promptly after receiving a zero-tolerance complaint is a serious violation of the [ride-hailing] rules because it places passengers and the public at immediate risk," the agency wrote in its legal filing.

Uber's current policy, according to the agency, is to deactivate a driver after receiving three unconfirmed zero-tolerance complaints. The regulator said in its filingthat the policy is too lenient and that the company doesn't adhere to it. In at least 25 cases, the agency alleges, Uber failed to suspend or investigate a driver after three or more complaints.

Under CPUC rules, the complaint will go before an administrative law judge, who can hear testimony from the agency and the company. The judge will recommend a decision to the CPUC's five-member commission.

An Uber spokeswoman declined to comment on the case.

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