Uber Driver Not Bound by Arbitration After Giving Password

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By Alexis Kramer

Providing log-in credentials to an Uber Technologies Inc. driver services representative in order to download the company’s app didn’t bind a former driver to Uber’s arbitration agreement, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held Feb. 14 ( Mohammed v. Uber Techs., Inc. , 2017 BL 43809, N.D. Ill., 16 C 2537, 2/14/17 ).

Plaintiff Abdul Mohammed alleged that the representative logged into the app and accepted Uber’s service agreement on Mohammed’s behalf without informing him.

The case is one of three lawsuits filed by Mohammed in 2016 against a sharing-economy company for alleged forced labor or involuntary servitude, among other federal and state law claims, Bloomberg Law data show. Mohammed has also filed suit against Lyft Inc. and Sidecar Technologies Inc.

Judge John Z. Lee ruled in the Uber case that, regardless of whether the provision of a username and password constituted an electronic signature, the credentials were not sufficient to show that Mohammed authorized the representative to accept the contract on his behalf. Lee denied Uber’s bid to compel arbitration of various claims brought by Mohammed against the company.

Lee declined to rule on the validity of the arbitration agreement itself. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in September 2016 ruled Uber’s arbitration agreements to be largely valid and enforceable. Mohamed v. Uber Techs. Inc., 836 F.3d 1102 (9th Cir. 2016).

An Uber spokeswoman declined a Bloomberg BNA request for comment. Mohammed didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

No Acceptance

Mohammed brought 21 state and federal law claims against Uber, including for alleged involuntary servitude, forced labor and breach of contract. Uber moved to compel arbitration of Mohammed’s claims under a provision in the company’s service agreement.

The court rejected Uber’s argument that Mohammed’s provision of a username and password amounted to an electronic signature under Illinois’ Electronic Commerce Security Act and was sufficient to bind him to the arbitration clause.

“There is no indication that the ECSA was intended to fundamentally alter basic contract law such that the provision of an electronic signature alone binds a party to a contract he or she did not accept,” the court said.

The court also rejected Uber’s argument that Mohammed had notice of the terms of the service agreement because they were available on the app’s “driver portal.” According to the court, the portal displayed a link to the agreement at the bottom of the page in small font under the heading “Contracts.” The court said it couldn’t conclude Mohammed should have seen the link or known it led to an arbitration clause.

Littler Mendelson PC represented Uber. Mohammed proceeded pro se.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexis Kramer in Washington at aKramer@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

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