California regulators slapped Uber with a $US59 ($78) million fine on Monday after they determined that the company had failed to adequately respond to questions about a report detailing thousands of sexual assaults that occurred during trips taken with the company’s ride-hailing platform.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the order stipulates that Uber will have 30 days to pay off the fine or else face the threat of having to halt operations in California altogether until the money is paid and regulators’ outstanding questions are satisfied.
The dispute reportedly stems from demands made by regulators at the California Public Utilities Commission, who are calling for Uber to turn over detailed information on the sexual assault cases and harassment claims among its drivers and riders. In a ruling on Monday on behalf of the CPUC — a regulatory body that regularly investigates transportation companies that operate within the state — a judge declared that the $US59 ($78) million figure had been decided upon by levying a $US7,500 ($9,950) fine for each specific instance of Uber refusing to answer a question during the process.
According to the 84-page, first-of-its-kind safety report Uber released in December 2019, the company had logged 3,045 sexual assaults and nine murders during ride shares in the US during the full length of 2018 and part of 2017.
But Uber has repeatedly cited a desire to protect victims’ privacy in denying the requests for more information, and several victims’ advocacy groups have supported that hesitation, claiming that there’s no guarantee that information on the victims would be safe with regulators, even under seal.
In a statement provided to The Verge, Uber said that the CPUC has been “insistent in its demands that we release the full names and contact information of sexual assault survivors without their consent,” a “shocking violation of privacy,” that the company opposes.
During Monday’s ruling, however, a judge said that arguments about privacy concerns little amounted to little more than “specious legal roadblocks” meant to “frustrate the Commission’s ability to gather information,” and recommended that Uber work with the CPUC to create “a code or some other signifier rather than a victim’s name.”