Uber fined $8.9 million by Colorado for numerous driver qualification violations

DENVER -- Ride-sharing service Uber was hit with an $8.9 million fine after it was found 57 people with past criminal or motor vehicle offenses were allowed to drive for the company, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission said Monday.

The drivers had major moving violations, including driving under the influence, reckless driving and driving under restraint.

Some drivers also had licenses revoked, suspended or canceled, the PUC said.

Uber allowed the drivers to work for the company for the past 18 months. The PUC fined the company $2,500 for each day a disqualified driver was found to have worked.

“We have determined that Uber had background check information that should have disqualified these drivers under the law, but they were allowed to drive anyway,” PUC director Doug Dean said in a statement.

“These actions put the safety of passengers in extreme jeopardy.”

Uber began service in Colorado in June 2014. As part of allowing ride-sharing services in the state, the companies had to perform criminal background and driver's history checks before hiring workers.

The PUC began investigating after the Vail Police Department reported an Uber driver was accused of assaulting a passenger.

In cross-checking records from the company, the PUC found several drivers who were hired by Uber but shouldn't have been under state law.

There were 12 drivers with felony convictions; 17 with major moving vehicle violations; three with interlock driver’s licenses, which are required after drunk driving convictions; and 63 with driver’s license issues.

“PUC staff was able to find felony convictions hat the company’s background checks failed to find, demonstrating that the company’s background checks are inadequate,” Dean said.

“In other cases, we could not confirm criminal background checks were even conducted by Uber.”

Uber has 10 days to pay 50 percent of the fine or request a hearing before an administrative law judge.

“We recently discovered a process error that was inconsistent with Colorado’s ride sharing regulations and proactively notified the Colorado Public Utilities Commission," Uber said in a statement.

"This error affected a small number of drivers and we immediately took corrective action. Per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with access to the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third party background screening.

"We will continue to work closely with the CPUC to enable access to safe, reliable transportation options for all Coloradans.”