Colorado Hits Uber With $8.9M Penalty Over Alleged Unlicensed Drivers & More

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Update below: The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has issued an $8.9 million civil penalty assessment notice against Rasier LLC, the parent company of Uber. Why? The PUC maintains that Uber has allowed "individuals with disqualifying criminal or motor vehicle offenses, or without valid licenses, to drive for the company" in the state.

According to a PUC release, the notice lists violations involving 57 Uber drivers over the past eighteen months or so "who should not have been permitted to drive for the company." The dollar amount of the penalty corresponds to a fine of $2,500 for every day that a so-called disqualified driver was determined to have worked in Colorado.

In recent years, we've covered a number of stories related to Uber drivers accused of criminal activity. In April 2015, for example, Gerald Montgomery was charged with attempted burglary and more after allegedly trying to rip off the home of a passenger he'd just dropped at DIA. The following November, Uber driver Luis Galeano-Bedon was accused of sexual assault against a passenger.

As for the PUC's investigation, it was launched earlier this year after the Vail Police Department referred a case involving a driver who was said to have attacked a passenger. Information obtained from the Colorado Crime Information Center revealed that the driver, whose name isn't shared by the PUC, had previous felony convictions, as well as moving violations that included driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated and driving under restraint.

The subsequent inquiry found twelve Uber drivers with felony convictions, seventeen with major moving-vehicle violations, three with interlock driver's licenses (assessed following drunk-driving convictions) and 63 who had other unspecified driver's-license issues, the PUC calculates. The agency also argues that Uber's background checks failed to flag a past prison escapee designated as a habitual offender.

"We have determined that Uber had background-check information that should have disqualified these drivers under the law, but they were allowed to drive anyway," PUC Director Doug Dean said in a statement. "These actions put the safety of passengers in extreme jeopardy."

We've reached out to Uber for comment on the latest developments and will update this post if and when we receive a response. PUC rules allow Rasier/Uber to resolve the matter by paying half of the penalty within ten days or requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge to contest the judgment.

Update: Uber has issued a statement regarding the penalty against its parent company announced today by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. It reads: "We recently discovered a process error that was inconsistent with Colorado’s ridesharing regulations and proactively notified the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). This error affected a small number of drivers and we immediately took corrective action. Per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with access to the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third party background screening. We will continue to work closely with the CPUC to enable access to safe, reliable transportation options for all Coloradans."
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts