Nov 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

DOJ sues Uber for allegedly overcharging people with disabilities

Picture of the back door of a blue car with an Uber sticker

Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The Justice Department said on Wednesday that it is suing Uber for allegedly charging "wait time" fees to passengers with disabilities who need more time to get into vehicles.

State of play: The department's complaint says that Uber "violates the [Americans with Disabilities Act] by failing to reasonably modify its wait time fee policy for passengers who, because of disability, need more than two minutes to get in an Uber car."

  • The DOJ added that disabled passengers may need additional time to get into vehicles for "various reasons," including breaking down a wheelchair or a walker in order for it to be stored in a car, or having a blind passenger who needs additional time to safely walk from the pickup location and into the car.
  • The DOJ alleges "even when Uber is aware that a passenger’s need for additional time is clearly disability-based, Uber starts charging a wait time fee at the two-minute mark."

The big picture: The company started charging wait time fees in 2016 in certain cities, and then it expanded the feature nationwide, according to the DOJ.

What they're saying: "People with disabilities deserve equal access to all areas of community life, including the private transportation services provided by companies like Uber," said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke in a statement.

  • "This lawsuit seeks to bring Uber into compliance with the mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act while sending a powerful message that Uber cannot penalize passengers with disabilities simply because they need more time to get into a car," Clarke added.
  • "Uber and other companies that provide transportation services must ensure equal access for all people, including those with disabilities."

The other side: "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," Uber said in a statement to Axios.

  • "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," the company said.
  • "It has been our policy to refund wait time fees for disabled riders whenever they alerted us that they were charged. After a recent change last week, now any rider who certifies they are disabled will have fees automatically waived."
  • "We fundamentally disagree that our policies violate the ADA and will keep improving our products to support everyone’s ability to easily move around their communities."
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