California prosecutors have amended a complaint against popular ride-sharing service Uber to include poorly managed background checks that permitted drivers with convicted murder and sex crimes to drive for the company.
The complaint now includes what prosecutors say are “systemic failures in Uber’s background check process” that appeared after the initial December filing.
Prosecutors from San Francisco and Los Angeles said in a 62-page filing late on Wednesday that they have uncovered evidence that Uber’s background process allowed registered sex offenders, identity criminals, burglars, a kidnapper and a convicted murderer to get through and drive for the company. Those individuals have since been cited for illegal activity, prosecutors said.
The lawsuit filed in December accuses Uber of misleading customers about the background checks to which it subjects drivers.
“I absolutely believe that there was something wrong with how Uber did things,” said 38-year-old Larry Chow, who is now a regular driver for Uber’s competitor Lyft after having numerous poor experiences driving for Uber. “They just didn’t seem to get it when I was driving and the response times were slow and sometimes they weren’t even talking about the same thing. And I know a lot of people with bad experiences.”
The San Francisco-based company said in a statement that it believed its screening process has been more effective than those currently being used by rival taxi companies.
“We continue to work on improving safety for riders and drivers before, during and after the trip,” Uber’s statement read, adding that more than 600 applicants had been denied in California for violent and drunken driving crimes.
The ride-sharing company has faced controversy across the country and the world, with a number of cities in Europe facing violent protests and street closures by taxi drivers against Uber’s entrance. In early August, a racketeering lawsuit against the company by Connecticut taxi and limousine companies was dismissed, giving Uber the ability to continue service in the state.
In Texas this month, Uber vowed to improve its background procedures after a driver accused of sexually assaulting a passenger was granted approval to drive for the company.
“I support technological innovation. Innovation, however, does not give companies a license to mislead consumers about issues affecting their safety,” San Francisco district attorney George Gascon said in a statement.
For many riders in San Francisco, Uber remains a quicker, and generally, cheaper option than traditional taxis. But users are more aware of the growing issues facing the company, and want Uber to take responsibility for their actions.
“This is a good idea, but they [Uber] have to be aware that this is a society and there are some rules you have to follow and I want to know I’m safe when I get in one of those cars,” said Jennie Robertson, a recent midwest transplant who added she is apprehensive about using Uber “because of the stories I’ve heard.”