Topline

Uber will pay more than $2 million to settle claims the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by charging fees to passengers with disabilities who take longer than two minutes to get into vehicles, the Department of Justice said on Monday.

Key Facts

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The DOJ filed a lawsuit in November alleging Uber began charging wait time fees in several cities across the country in 2016, and did not amend the policy for those with disabilities who needed more than two minutes to get into their cars.

As a part of a two-year settlement agreement, Uber pledged to waive the fees for all passengers who certify they or someone they frequently travel with needs more time to enter a vehicle because of a disability, according to the DOJ.

The ride-hailing company will also credit the accounts of more than 65,000 eligible riders for more than double the amount of wait time fees they were charged, which could amount to hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, the DOJ estimated.

People with disabilities “should not be made to feel like second-class citizens or punished because of their disability,” Kristen Clark, the DOJ’s assistant attorney general for civil rights, said in a statement.

Uber spokesperson Carissa Simons told Forbes the company was “pleased with the agreement,” adding it has “long been our policy to refund wait time fees for riders with a disability when they alerted us that they were charged.”

Big Number

$2.23 million. That's how much Uber agreed to pay to passengers according to the DOJ, including $1,738,500 to more than one thousand riders with disabilities who affected Uber about the fees and $500,000 to other individuals the department identified.

Key Background

When the DOJ first filed its lawsuit, it noted passengers who are blind may need additional time to safely walk in a car, while others may need time to break down a wheelchair to store it in the vehicle. The department asked Uber to modify its policy of charging wait fees to passengers with disabilities, inform staff and drivers about the Americans with Disabilities Act and compensate those with disabilities who had been forced to pay the fees. Uber disputed the lawsuit at the time, contending in a statement to Forbes the company refunded wait fees for disabled riders “whenever they alerted us that they were charged,” and the fees were “never intended for riders who are ready at their designated pickup location but need more time to get into the car.”

Contra

Simons told Forbes wheelchair-accessible Uber rides as well as trips with Uber Assist—a program that provides additional assistance to seniors and people with disabilities—do not have any wait time fees by default. Simons also claimed the average wait time fee charged to riders in 2020 was less than $0.60, and added the company had "made product improvements" to make the app more accessible.

Uber Settles DOJ Lawsuit Over Wait Fees for Disabled Passengers (Bloomberg)

DOJ sues Uber for allegedly charging wait fees to customers with disabilities (CNBC)