Uber has struck a deal with a California regulator that would drastically reduce a substantial fine against the company for failing to hand over data on sexual assault incidents on its platform.
The California Public Utilities Commission previously fined Uber (UBER) $59 million in December 2020 and threatened to suspend its license to operate in the state after the company did not comply with a request for sexual assault data. But that fine has now been slashed to just $150,000, according to a proposed agreement filed Thursday.
The reduced fine is part of a broader deal resulting from months of discussions between Uber, the CPUC’s Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division and Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, a nonprofit organization. The deal is pending approval by an administrative law judge as well as the CPUC.
Under the terms of the deal, Uber has agreed to provide anonymized data on sexual assault incidents and give individuals reporting such incidents the ability to opt-in to being contacted by the CPUC in the future. Uber will also put more money into the issue, agreeing to contribute $5 million to the California Victims Compensation Board, which assists victims of violence in the state, and $4 million toward developing industry-wide efforts, including developing best practices on classifying, reporting and responding to these types of incidents. (Uber has agreed to deposit the combined $9 million with the CPUC’s Fiscal Office.)
The agreement also includes that future comprehensive data requests associated with sexual violence should be issued to the industry as a whole, rather than just Uber or any one company.
“We’ve been able to find a path forward that preserves the privacy and agency of sexual assault survivors,” Tony West, senior vice president and chief legal officer at Uber, said in a statement. “We look forward to continued collaboration with the Commission to shine a light on this societal issue and help set the standard.”
The CPUC said its commissioners could still reject the settlement or propose alternative terms.
The probe originally stemmed from Uber’s safety transparency report in December 2019, which the company pledged to put out after a CNN investigation into sexual assault and abuse by ride-hail drivers. The safety transparency report, which Uber has said it plans to release every two years, revealed the company received nearly 6,000 reports of sexual assault in 2017 and 2018 on its platform. Of those incidents, Uber disclosed that 1,243 reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment were in California, or 21% of the overall complaints.
The CPUC wanted Uber to provide more details about the incidents, including the date, time, and location of each assault, the identity of each witness and the name and contact information of who they reported the incidents to at the time. Uber objected to releasing data, which it said may retraumatize survivors and appealed the fine. (As part of the agreement, Uber has agreed to provide information about employees who worked on the report under seal.)
Lyft, which similarly promised to put out a report, has yet to do so. When asked for an update on the status of the report last month, a Lyft spokesperson said the company was waiting for the Uber and CPUC dispute to be resolved before releasing it.
Lyft (LYFT) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.