Ever paranoid that the driver picking you up at night might be a serial killer? Well, you might not be too far off — registered sex offenders, a kidnapper, a convicted murderer and identity thieves have all passed Uber’s background checks and been hired to drive for the company.
A civil complaint was filed against the popular car ride service by the district attorneys of Los Angeles and San Francisco for allegedly misleading customers and falsely advertising the safety and quality of its driver background checks.
The complaint was added as an amendment to a lawsuit filed against Uber in December for engaging in a variety of unlawful business practices.
District Attorneys George Gascon and Jackie Lacey said:
“Uber has refused to comply with straightforward California laws that protect consumers from fraud and harm.”
The complaint referred to the 25 instances where Uber’s “superior” background checks failed to red flag applicants with felonies, misdemeanor charges and past citations.
In one case, an applicant who was convicted of second degree murder in 1982 was able to pass Uber’s background check. The man served 26 years in prison before he was released in 2008 and became an Uber driver. He gave over 1,100 rides to users who requested rides via the company’s app.
In another case, a driver who was convicted of felony charges for lewd acts with young children gave 5,600 rides to Uber passengers.
The complaint also cites other Uber drivers charged with burglary and other misdemeanors including identity theft.
Though Uber claims their background checks are superior than that of taxi companies, the company does not conduct fingerprint identification tests. Without this, Uber is unable to ensure that the forms of ID their drivers provide are real and accurate. This leaves room for applicants to falsify forms of identification such as licenses and Social Security numbers. It also limits the company from being able to search state and federal databases. Since Uber relies on commercial databases, their results only show the past seven years of an individual’s criminal record.
Taxi companies, on the other hand, base their background checks on fingerprint identification. While Uber’s background check process is not illegal, Gascon and Lacey accuse the company of misrepresenting the extent of their commitment to riders’ safety. The complaint reads:
“[Uber’s] false and misleading statements are so woven into the fabric of User’s safety narrative that they render Uber’s entire safety message misleading.”
Uber boasts that their background checks “exceed any local or national standard” and that their employment terms note a “lifetime disqualification for sex offenders.” These claims are unqualified due to their limited access to an applicant’s entire criminal history and biometric identifications.
Back in July, Uber acknowledged that their background check system was not free of imperfections and that there were indeed drivers with criminal records registered to drive with Uber.
A statement released by Uber stated:
“We disagree that the process used by taxi companies is an inherently better system for screening drivers than our background checks.
“The reality is that neither is 100% foolproof.”