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Uber to pay millions to settle claims it ripped off disabled people with unfair fees

Effectively charging folks in wheelchairs for taking too long to get into ride? Not a great look

Uber has promised to cough up a few million of dollars to settle claims it unfairly charged disabled passengers waiting fees if they took extra time to board their rides.

The car-hailing biz was accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in a lawsuit brought by the US government last year. Uber adds extra expenses to the cost of rides if passengers take longer than two minutes to get into the summoned vehicle. These surplus charges discriminate against those with disabilities, who naturally need extra time, Uncle Sam's lawyers argued. 

For instance, people with mobility issues may need extra time to stow wheelchairs or walkers. Blind folks may find it more difficult to locate vehicles or walk to them more slowly. The US Dept of Justice claimed the waiting fees breached the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals from participating in all areas, from employment, education, transportation, and public and private places.

To settle the case out of court, and with no admission of wrongdoing, Uber has agreed to pay back double the wait time fees more than 65,000 disabled riders were charged as credit. These account refunds could be worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in compensation. The app giant will also pay $1,738,500 in damages to over a thousand riders, who complained to Uber about being charged wait time fees because of their disabilities, and $500,000 to other individuals affected by the fees. 

"People with disabilities should not be made to feel like second-class citizens or punished because of their disability, which is exactly what Uber's wait time fee policy did," Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said in a statement Monday.

"This agreement sends a strong message that Uber and other ridesharing companies will be held accountable if their services discriminate against people with disabilities."

Uber and other ridesharing companies will be held accountable if their services discriminate

Uber will also have to scrap wait time fees for all riders who need more time to get into cars because of a disability. It will also have to clearly advertise its wait time fee waiver program and train its customer service representatives to more easily refund passengers who were illegally charged wait time fees. Prosecutors said the settlement deal was submitted to the courts this week for approval.

"We're pleased to have reached this agreement with the Department of Justice, and look forward to continuing to help everyone move easily around their communities," an Uber spokesperson told us in statement.

"It has long been our policy to refund wait time fees for riders with a disability when they alerted us that they were charged, and prior to this matter being filed we made changes so that any rider who shares that they have a disability would have wait time fees waived automatically."

"We are always working to improve accessibility for all users and encourage riders with a disability to utilize our self-declaration form to have wait time fees waived," the spokesperson added. ®

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