Uber slapped with civil suit by San Francisco and L.A.

December 10, 2014, 1:06 AM UTC
Photo courtesy: Andrew Harrer — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Uber, the ride sharing service facing intense criticism and legal troubles across the globe, hit another speed bump Tuesday with two California district attorneys filing civil suits against the company.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a joint press release that they had sued Uber for a number of alleged misdeeds including misrepresenting the quality of background checks it conducts on its drivers and illegally servicing airports.

At the same time, the two top prosecutors said that they had reached a $500,000 settlement with Lyft, an Uber rival, over similar accusations. The agreement prohibits Lyft from making false statements about driver background checks.

“Unfortunately, Uber, unlike Lyft, has refused to comply with reasonable regulations as required by California law,” District Attorney Lacey said in a statement. “As a result, Uber continues to put consumers at risk by misleading the public about the background checks of its drivers and its unwillingness to ensure that correct fares are charged.”

The suit attacks Uber for other questionable businesses practices as well, including a $1 “safe ride fee” and $4 “airport fee toll” charged to customers. Ultimately, San Francisco and L.A.’s district attorneys are demanding that Uber stop these practices and fully reimburse customers who paid the fees.

Eva Behrend, an Uber spokeswoman, said in a statement that Uber had met with the district attorneys to address their concerns. But she conceded no ground to their accusations.

“We will continue to engage in discussions with the District Attorneys,” she said.

Erin Simpson, a Lyft spokeswoman, said in a statement, “After months of productive conversations, Lyft has entered into an agreement with District Attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles that demonstrates our shared commitment to consumers and innovation.”

Both Uber and Lyft are based in San Francisco, making Gascón their hometown district attorney.

The civil suit isn’t a surprise for Uber — officials threatened action back in September —but it is the latest headache in a string of controversies for the company. Earlier on Tuesday, Spain and Thailand banned Uber from operating in the two countries. On Monday, officials in New Delhi, India’s capital, ordered Uber to cease operations after one local driver was accused of raping a young, female passenger over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the cities of Portland, Ore. and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil have also accused Uber of operating illegally.