Uber agrees to reduced fine in fight over sexual assault data

Uber has agreed to pay $9 million to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) after refusing to hand over data about riders and drivers who were sexually assaulted, and pay a separate $150,000 fine, according to a settlement agreement reached Thursday.

The CPUC will give $5 million of that money to the California Victim Compensation Fund, and the remaining $4 million will “go to address physical and sexual violence in the passenger carrier industry,” according to The San Francisco Chronicle, which reported on the agreement Thursday. Uber will also now provide data about the assaults to the CPUC, though it will remove any potentially identifying information.

The CPUC originally fined Uber $59 million in December 2020 and threatened to suspend its license to operate in the state after the company failed to answer questions about a damning safety report it published the year prior. That 84-page report included aggregate data about thousands of sexual assaults in the US in 2017 and 2018 during trips taken with the company’s ride-hailing service.

Uber called the report “jarring,” but declined to provide more specific information about the assaults when the CPUC came asking. The CPUC also wanted to know more information about who at the company authored the report, especially because Uber admitted in the fine print that it did not “assess or take any position on whether any of the reported incidents actually occurred.” (The CPUC has regulatory authority over transportation companies in California and regularly investigates complaints against them.)

Uber refused to answer the CPUC’s questions and hand over the data on the grounds that it would put sexual assault survivors at risk. It appealed the CPUC’s fine in January, calling the $59 million fine “extraordinary” and claiming that the CPUC was “penaliz[ing] Uber for its good-faith efforts to stand with survivors.”

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