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April 21 — The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission fined Uber Technologies Inc. $11.4 million in a joint motion adopted April 21, drastically reducing a recommended civil penalty.
The commission voted 3-2 in favor of fining Uber for operating in Pittsburgh February 2014 through August 2014 without authority, and for ignoring discovery requests. Two administrative law judges had recommended a $49.9 million civil penalty along with a $72,000 discovery sanction (20 ECLR 1738, 12/16/15).
“This reduced penalty demonstrates that the Commission is more than willing to compromise in order to achieve outcomes that serve the public interest,” the commission said in its motion.
The reduction was based on Uber's modified internal practices and a lack of significant compliance issues since the company was granted experimental authority to operate, the commission said.
The two dissenting commissioners issued statements saying that the penalty was still too high, because civil penalties are generally assessed for incidents resulting in fatalities, serious bodily harm, significant property damage or longstanding business practices jeopardizing public safety.
The majority justified the penalty despite Uber's ramped-up compliance efforts, saying “Uber has deliberately engaged in the most unprecedented series of willful violations of Commission orders and regulations in the history of this agency.”
The eight-figure penalty was necessary to ensure future compliance, the commission said, adding that it was concerned that a further reduction would create a perception that Uber was “too big to fine.”
“If the Commission is unable to impose a penalty that reasonably corresponds to the very large number of proven violations, when would it be able to do so?” ” the Commission said.
The precise number of alleged violations is proprietary, the commission said, but numbered “in the many thousands.”
Uber didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
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The joint motion can be found at http://src.bna.com/ejj
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