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Chen Certifies Class Challenging Uber Over Tips
Marisa Kendall

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge on Wednesday allowed Uber Technologies Inc. passengers to proceed on a class basis with claims that target the company's tips policy.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen of the Northern District of California certifieda class of UberTAXI passengers who received a 2012 email explaining that they would be charged an automatic 20 percent gratuity for their rides. Plaintiffs claim that email led them to believe the entire tip went to their drivers, when in reality Uber kept half.

The ruling is a partial win for plaintiffs lawyers, who had sought to certify a broader class of all passengers who booked an UberTAXI ride between April 2012 and March 2013. Plaintiffs, represented by Ram, Olson, Cereghino & Kopczynski; the Law Offices of Hall Adams; and Myron M. Cherry & Associates, sued Uber last year for alleged violations of the California Unfair Competition Law and the Consumers Legal Remedies Act. They claim Uber misrepresented its gratuity policy for UberTAXI, a service that allowed passengers to use the Uber app to request a ride in a traditional taxi and pay a metered fare. The program was rolled out in five cities during the class period. In March 2013, Uber stopped automatically including the 20 percent gratuity.

Uber's lawyers with Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan had argued that plaintiffs present individualized issues, including which allegedly misleading statements they saw. Chen seemed to agree, at least in part.

"Plaintiff's proposed class has a problem of predominance," he wrote in his 26-page order, "namely the absence of proof that the entire proposed class would have been exposed to the allegedly misleading statement that the 20 percent automatic charge was for gratuity only."

Chen cured this defect by certifying a class made up only of plaintiffs who received a specific June 2012 email about the UberTAXI gratuity, discounting alleged misrepresentations made by Uber in blog posts and on its website.

Earlier this year Chen certified a class of Uber drivers who claim they were denied tips and that they should be classified as employees and entitled to employee benefits. Uber also faces potential class actions over its background check policy, its "safe rides" fee and a toll it charged passengers for airport trips.

Contact the reporter at[email protected].
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