When Uber launched its Pennsylvania operations in 2014, it did so without approval of the state regulatory agency that oversees most taxi services. Two years later, the ridesharing service is being hit with a $11.365 million civil penalty by the state.
This morning, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) — which regulates taxi services everywhere in the state except for Philadelphia — announced its final penalty against Uber for failing to obtain proper authority to operate a transportation service in the state, for ignoring cease-and-desist orders, and for then failing to respond to subsequent document requests from the PUC.
The penalty counts each Uber ride during this time period an individual violation. And while the $11.365 million penalty is the largest ever issued by the PUC, it’s significantly smaller than the $50 million amount recommended in Nov. 2015 by an administrative law judge.
The PUC explains the reduced amount by noting that Uber has modified its internal practices to come into compliance with conditions imposed by the Commission, and the company has “not demonstrated any significant compliance problems” since obtaining proper authority to operate in Pennsylvania.
“We find that a civil penalty of this size is necessary to deter Uber and other members of this industry from future violations of the Public Utility Code and the laws of this Commonwealth,” explains Commissioner John Coleman.
Two PUC commissioners dissented, saying the penalty goes too far in punishing Uber, especially when compared to previous fines levied by the commission.
Commissioner Pamela Witwer — one the two dissenters — contends that the PUC has come down with less severe penalties in cases involving “incidents of serious bodily injury, fatalities, significant property damage” and risks to public safety.
The Uber penalty is also many times larger than the $250,000 settlement the PUC previously negotiated with Lyft over similar violations.
By: Chris Morran