After conducting a joint investigation, San Francisco’s and Los Angeles’ district attorneys (DAs) sent letters this week to ride-sharing services Uber, Sidecar, and Lyft alleging the companies have engaged in two unlawful practices.
The first illegal practice, the DAs say, is that the companies’ websites have misled customers by claiming their background checks screen out drivers “who have ever committed driving violations, DUI, sexual assault, and other criminal offenses,” according to a copy of the letter Sidecar sent to Business Insider.
The DAs also told Sidecar, Uber, and Lyft that the way these companies calculate shared ride service fares violates California state law. This method lets customers who are travelling the same way share a car and split the fare.
The DAs told each company that they each must meet with them by Oct. 8 to avoid legal action.
In the meeting, the companies must be prepared to discuss how and when each company will remove statements from their apps, websites, and public statements asserting that Lyft, Sidecar, and Uber’s criminal background checks “reveal a driver’s criminal history older than seven years.” Each company must also remove the “shared rides” payment feature from their respective apps.
“We value innovation and new modes of providing service to the public,” San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “However, we need to make sure the safety and well-being of consumers are adequately protected in the process.”
Here’s what an Uber spokesperson had to say to Business Insider: “Ridesharing is unequivocally supported by the California legislature, the CPUC, the Governor, local jurisdictions across the state and millions of Californians. The DAs have made numerous inaccurate assertions that we will correct and discuss with them.”
A blog post from April on Uber’s website explains its background check policy in detail:
“All Uber ridesharing and livery partners must go through a rigorous background check that leads the industry. The three-step screening we’ve developed across the United States, which includes county, federal and multi-state checks, has set a new standard. These checks go back 7 years, the maximum allowable by California law. We apply this comprehensive and new industry standard consistently across all Uber products, including uberX.
Screening for safe drivers is just the beginning of our safety efforts. Our process includes prospective and regular checks of drivers’ motor vehicle records to ensure ongoing safe driving. Unlike the taxi industry, our background checking process and standards are consistent across the United States and often more rigorous than what is required to become a taxi driver.”
A Sidecar spokesperson provided this statement to Business Insider:
“We strongly disagree with the assertion by San Francisco and Los Angeles County District Attorney Office’s that connecting people for Sidecar Shared Rides is illegal. Shared Rides are great for California because they are safe and affordable, cut down on traffic congestion and reduce pollution. The District Attorneys are trying to enforce laws written for limousines, in an era before smartphones. Sidecar will continue to operate and expand Shared Rides.
Sidecar is strongly committed to safety for both riders and drivers and is looking to work with the DAs offices for our common goals of insuring public safety.”
Lyft did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
A copy of the letter sent to Sidecar from the DAs is embedded below.