When I was researching my November 2014 Reason feature on the political battles of Uber and other companies in its app-enabled ride-summoning space, many of their political opponents thought that California's Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)—which was the first statewide agency to create a normalized regulatory space for such services on a statewide level—was going to function toothlessly as a veritable pawn of the e-hailing services.
Everyone in politics likes to sell themselves as the underdog. But events this week show that the CPUC is rather acting like a mad dog out to kill and maim senselessly when it comes to its regulation of those services. The problem arises over handicapped access to the services.
Today in the Los Angeles Times we get the terrible news:
Ride-hailing giant Uber should be fined $7.3 million and suspended from operating in California because its parent company did not comply with state laws, a state administrative judge said Wednesday….
Uber's license to operate in California will be suspended in 30 days, unless the company files an appeal or a CPUC commissioner requests a review. The ban will remain in effect until Uber "complies fully with the outstanding requirements," chief administrative law judge Karen V. Clopton wrote.
Those requirements include reporting how many requests for rides the company has received from people with service animals or wheelchairs; how many of those rides were completed; and other ride-logging information such as date, time and zipcode of each request, plus the fare paid.
Details about accidents the state insists it should have are also missing, according to this SFist report. ABC News reports Uber is the only company in the regulated space CPUC is accusing of not providing required data.
Uber reacted, reports the Times:
"We will appeal the decision as Uber has already provided substantial amounts of data to the California Public Utilities Commission, information we have provided elsewhere with no complaints," spokeswoman Eva Behrend said. "Going further risks compromising the privacy of individual riders as well as driver-partners."
Uber has 30 days to appeal the decision. That appeal would prompt a review by Clopton, who can choose to modify the fine, the suspension or both. After a month of public comment, the CPUC's five-member board will vote on the recommendations.
The suspension will not take effect until the appeal has been decided.
Do note this is not because of any specific accusation of having committed some sort of civil rights law violation against the disabled; the enormous fine and threatened destruction is merely for a failure to send reports to the state in a manner it finds sufficient. This is the regulatory state, protecting the consumer. Allegedly. Except for the many thousands of drivers and passengers who will find their lives made very much worse because of the CPUC.
Sounds like the CPUC is pre-emptively doing Hillary Clinton's work for her, as the would-be Democratic presidential candidate herself vowed to curb such services, in her case through the classification of their contractors as far-more-expensive employeees.