PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Ride-hailing company Uber is asking state utility regulators to reconsider the record-setting $11.4 million fine they issued against it.
The Public Utility Commission fined San Francisco-based Uber in April for operating in Pennsylvania for six months in 2014 without the required approval. The commission is looking at Uber’s appeal, which contends the fine amount is unreasonable, considering the lack of evidence that its services did harm.
Uber argued that it successfully filled a void in the state’s transportation infrastructure. It wants the fine recalculated using the number of days it violated state authority, not the number of trips it provided.
The appeal, filed Wednesday, didn’t offer an alternative fine amount, but Uber has previously expressed willingness to settle for $399,000.
“Our hope is that the new information presented in this filing will give the commissioners ample reason to reconsider the unprecedented and wholly disproportionate fine,” the company said in a statement.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Pittsburgh-area officials wrote a letter to the commission this month urging it to greatly reduce the fine. They said the stiff fine could discourage innovative companies from investing in Pennsylvania. They noted Uber has picked Pittsburgh as its world headquarters for advanced technology research and for testing self-driven vehicles.
The commission, which regulates buses and taxis in all counties except Philadelphia, approved a fine considerably lower than the $50 million recommended by a pair of administrative law judges in November, but it’s still the largest in agency history. The fine also surpasses the $250,000 fine issued to Uber’s main competitor, Lyft, for similar violations.
Uber employs citizen drivers who use their own cars to give people rides. The commission said it had concerns because there was no uniform way to ensure vehicle safety or to determine whose insurance would cover damages in an accident.
The commission has since granted Uber and Lyft temporary operating licenses everywhere but Philadelphia, which is out of its jurisdiction.
The state assembly is considering legislation to grant ride-hailing companies permanent permission to operate throughout Pennsylvania. If approved, the bill would enable the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which oversees the city’s taxis, to oversee ride-hailing companies.
Philadelphia cab drivers have protested the ride-hailing services operating illegally in the city since 2014.