Uber to pay $10 million to settle California lawsuit

Crime Watch Daily’s Exclusive Investigation highlights gaps in background checks

Ride-share company Uber has agreed to pay $10 million to settle with California prosecutors who alleged the company misled its passengers about the nature of its driver-background checks, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

The announcement comes following a two-year investigation by California prosecutors and seven months after Crime Watch Daily aired a nationwide investigation into Uber X and its practice of hiring drivers. Uber X is the company's cheapest and most popular service.

Uber X gets 50,000 new drivers every month. The company advertises that it does extensive criminal background checks on every driver. Crime Watch Daily found three people with criminal histories who agreed to apply to drive for Uber X.

One driver had been charged with racing on a highway and convicted of reckless driving and later with driving with a suspended license. Another driver was previously convicted of seven counts of burglary, and served a 10-year prison sentence. He had stolen 19 handguns.

The third driver had been charged with assault with a deadly weapon and harassment; the assault charges were later dropped. She was convicted of harassment. She admitted that she had tried to run over a cheating boyfriend.

During Uber's online application process, the three drivers were asked to provide a valid driver's license, proof of insurance, registration, Social Security number, and date of birth. None of Crime Watch Daily's applicants was asked for fingerprints, or if they had criminal records.

Uber X's criminal background check system only goes back seven years.

A Crime Watch Daily producer chatted online with Uber Partner Support, and claimed she had a violent criminal past; she asked if she should still apply. The response from the Uber representative: "I would apply."

All three of the drivers passed Uber X's background check and actually drove for the company.

"The seven year requirement is actually the maximum allowed by law. We are going back as far as we possibly can. We cannot go back any further legally," an Uber spokesman told Crime Watch Daily.

Prosecutors in Los Angeles and California sued Uber in 2014, stating the company's background checks were not as good as taxi-driver checks, which include fingerprint checks for past convictions. The settlement agreement was announced Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

Uber did not admit wrongdoing and settled a separate case brought by ride passengers in February for $28.5 million. The company renamed its "safe ride fee" as a "booking fee" as part of that settlement.