SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Uber drivers suing the ride-hailing company for tips and expenses need not prove that riders believed tips were included in fares, the federal judge overseeing the class action ruled Wednesday.
Uber had asked U.S. District Judge Edward Chen for summary judgment or class decertification on the tips claim, saying the class couldn't prove that riders relied on misrepresentations by Uber about tips being included.
At a hearing last week, Chen said the class wasn't claiming that Uber lied to riders about the tips. Instead, Uber's statements that the fare was "all-inclusive" supports the class' theory that Uber truthfully represented that tips were part of the fare, and that because Uber charges riders for tips, it is required to pass those tips along to its drivers.
"Everybody knows it is common practice to tip- whether it's a cab driver or other driving service. When you have someone drive you it's a common practice, just as it is to leave a tip at a restaurant. When you say 'all inclusive' that's enough to imply that whatever tip you would have given, you don't need to here," Chen said at the hearing.
Class attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan had argued that Uber made multiple statements, including one recently by an Uber executive on national radio, that tips were included in Uber fares.
"The pervasiveness of Uber representing a tip is included - on its website, marketing materials, emails, on national radio last week - is sufficient for us to get to a jury whether a reasonable customer understood there was a tip," she said.
Liss-Riordan was referring to an interview Uber executive Blair Mattson gave on March 17 during which she said, "If you try to tip a driver you might get some funny looks, but yeah the tip's actually included."
Replying to Liss-Riordan, Chen said, "I find the theory of this case is not one of traditional misrepresentation and deceit of customers. Here, the question simply is whether there was a tip that was included in the all-inclusive charge such that under labor code there was a tip that had to be paid over to the divers. In this regard, Uber had a singular, uniform policy across the board. It seems to me this was an all or nothing approach."
Chen's Wednesday ruling repeated his remarks from the bench.
"Because plaintiffs assert an all-or-nothing claim (either Uber's charges did or did not
include tips), the beliefs of individual riders are not at issue, and plaintiffs are not required to prove that every rider believed that they were leaving a tip," he wrote. "Thus, the question of whether Uber charges tip is a singular question that is not dependent on a showing of individualized reliance by each rider, but instead turns on an analysis of Uber's uniform practice and policy. This is especially the case in view of Uber's admission that its conduct with respect to the way it charges customers and its goal of not requiring customers to deal with cash is uniform."