Judge Calls for Big Fine, Suspension of Uber in Calif.

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Uber should be fined $7.3 million and suspended from operating in the Golden State for breaking state laws – pending an appeal or review by the California Public Utilities Commission, an administrative law judge ruled on Wednesday.
     The world’s largest ride-hailing company will lose its license in 30 days unless it either pays the fine and provides the CPUC with the requested information or files an appeal.
     The Los Angeles Times reported that Uber plans to appeal the decision.
     The commission’s 96-page ruling by administrative law judge Robert Mason blasts Uber for failing to comply with mandatory reporting requirements on disabled accessibility, the number of ride requests it receives within each ZIP code and problems with drivers.
     The CPUC, which also regulates ride service companies Lyft and Sidecar, said all three had until September 2014 to turn in their data. Only Uber failed to comply.
     Uber’s parent company Rasier-CA complained that the requirements were unduly burdensome. For example, it said driver incidents were hard to track because Uber does not assign a specific cause for each incident.
     The commission was not persuaded, saying the company was able to provide it with the information it asked for but instead asserted “unsubstantiated legal arguments” to dodge the reporting requirements.
     “While the task may require some effort to retrieve, the fact that the other TNCs have complied leads us to conclude that the task may not be as Herculean as Rasier-CA makes it out to be,” the commission’s ruling said.
     Uber also failed to substantiate its claim that fare information is a trade secret.
     “A trade secret claim cannot be used as a shield to deny access to the very regulatory agency that has ordered the information’s creation and compilation,” the ruling said, adding that Uber couldn’t prove its competitors would somehow economically benefit from public disclosure of Uber’s trip data.
     “All TNC [Transportation Network Company] drivers know where the ZIP codes and neighborhoods are that have the greater chances of securing rides for the day, so any release of Rasier-CA’s trip data isn’t going to provide the competition with information that they don’t already possess,” the commission said.
     To Rasier’s argument that the requirements constitute an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment, the commission said, “The reporting requirement cannot be deemed burdensome or oppressive since every other regulated TNC except for Rasier-CA has already complied.”
     “In sum, Rasier-CA’s arguments are nothing more than an elaborate obfuscation designed to hide the fact that it does not want to-rather than cannot-comply with reporting requirements,” the commission concluded.

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