Uber is asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to settle two cases: Philliben v. Uber Technologies, Inc. and Mena v. Uber Technologies, Inc., which have since been consolidated into one case on behalf of Uber passengers seeking restitution for every $1 Safe Rides fee charged to every Uber customer in the U.S.
In addition to divvying up $28.5 million among 25 million people, which comes out to roughly $1.14 per person before attorney fees, Uber has agreed to change the way it describes safety-related features in its marketing materials, as well as get rid of the term “Safe Ride Fee.” Going forward, the term will be “Booking Fee,” which covers safety and operational costs.
Uber first added the $1 safe ride fee in April 2014 to help pay for its safety program, which includes driver training, background checks and vehicle inspections. In the lawsuit, Uber passengers contend that they should not have had to pay the fee because the company’s background checks were misleading and not “industry leading,” as Uber had previously claimed. The lawsuits also cited “unfortunate incidents” that have happened to passengers during Uber rides.
In Uber’s release, the company recognizes that “accidents and incidents do happen,” which is “why it’s important to ensure that the language we use to describe safety at Uber is clear and precise.” Uber competitor Lyft faced a similar issue, with riders in San Diego filing a civil suit around Lyft’s Trust & Safety fee in June 2015. Lyft has since changed its terminology to “Trust & Service.”
If the judge approves the settlement, which we won’t know for at least a few weeks, those included in the class action suits — passengers who rode with Uber between Jan. 1, 2013 and Jan. 31, 2016 — will be notified by email and given the option to be paid via credit card or their rider account. In the event that the judge does not approve Uber’s proposed settlement, the company still plans to change the “Safe Ride Fee” to “Booking Fee.”
This is just the latest in a series of legal drama faced by the multibillion-dollar ride hailing startup. Last month, Uber was fined $7.6 million by the California Public Utilities Commission for failing to provide information “in a full and timely fashion” around the number and percentage of customers who requested accessible cars, and how often it could provide rides for them. Meanwhile, Uber is still battling the class action lawsuit around reimbursing drivers for gas and other expenses. That lawsuit is set to go to trial this summer in June.