SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Uber on Wednesday, accusing the ride-hailing service with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by charging extra fees to disabled passengers who need additional time to get into a vehicle.
Since April 2016, San Francisco-based Uber has charged passengers "wait time" fees which begin two minutes after the car arrives and are charged until the car begins the trip, according to a press statement from Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District Stephanie Hinds. The complaint alleged that Uber violates the ADA by not modifying its wait time policy for passengers who need more than two minutes to get into a car.
"Uber's wait time fees take a significant toll on people with disabilities," said Hinds in a prepared statement. "Passengers with disabilities who need additional boarding time are entitled to access ridesharing services without discrimination. This lawsuit seeks to assist people with disabilities to live their lives with independence and dignity, as the ADA guarantees."
Hinds cited examples such as a passenger who uses a wheelchair or walker that needs to be broken down and stored in the car, or a blind passenger who needs some extra time to safely walk from the pickup location to the car itself.
According to the complaint, even when Uber is aware a passenger is disabled and needs additional time, the wait time fee begins at the two-minute mark.
The lawsuit seeks relief from the court, including ordering Uber to stop discriminating against individuals with disabilities and to modify its wait time fee policy to comply with the ADA. The suit also seeks monetary damages for passengers subjected to illegal wait time fees and a civil penalty to vindicate the public's interest in eliminating disability discrimination.
In a statement to KPIX 5, Uber said,
"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. 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 has a policy of refunding wait time fees for disabled riders when they alert the company that they were wrongly charged and will allow riders who certify as disabled to have fees automatically waived.
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