Uber Could be Hit With its Biggest Fine Yet

November 19, 2015, 3:50 PM UTC
German Court Bans Uber Service Nationwide
BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 02: In this photo illustration, a woman uses the Uber app on an Samsung smartphone on September 2, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Uber, an app that allows passenger to buy rides from drivers who do not have taxi permits, has had its UberPop freelance driver service banned in Germany after a complaint by Taxi Deutschland, a trade association of taxi drivers in the country. The company, which operates in 42 countries over 200 cities worldwide, plans to both appeal the decision made by a court in Frankfurt as well as, at the risk of heavy fines, continue its services in Germany until a final decision has been made on the matter. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Photo by Adam Berry via Getty Images

Administrative law judges from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission published a decision on Tuesday recommending that Uber receive a fine of $50 million.

It would be the largest fine that the state’s agency that regulates taxis and buses has ever imposed. And it appears to be the biggest fine Uber has faced for running afoul of state laws. Earlier this year, California fined Uber $7.3 million for failing to provide certain information to that state’s taxi and bus regulator.

The Pennsylvania judges are recommending a large penalty on grounds that Uber operated in Pennsylvania for six months last year without the permission of the state commission, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The company is also being charged with ignoring requests for certain documents, effectively impeding investigations.

“It is inescapable that Uber chose to launch its ride-sharing service and then continued to evade commission oversight,” the judges wrote in the initial decision. “As a sophisticated company, Uber should have been aware that arranging transportation with uncertificated drivers was not permitted.”

Uber plans to fight against the penalty as it received an emergency temporary authority that permitted operations in the majority of Pennsylvania. The recommended fine is still subject to approval by the PUC.

Lyft faced a similar charge earlier this year, but that case only resulted in a $250,000 fine.

The order stated that the severity of Uber’s charge is because of an “intentional and a blatant defiance of the rules of the commission” by Uber, and a serious penalty would help deter future violations.

A spokesperson for Uber said that the PUC set a precedent with its Lyft settlement, and the company is expecting the final charge to be significantly lower than the initial recommendation, adding:

We’re extremely disappointed in today’s recommendation. We look forward to presenting our case and coming to a reasonable resolution consistent with precedent set by the Commission in similar rulings. Uber has made repeated good faith efforts to settle, all of which have been rejected by I&E.