U.S. District Judge Edward Chen, Northern District of California (Hillary Jones-Mixon)
SAN FRANCISCO — After months of foot-dragging, Uber is getting closer to complying with a federal judge’s demand to amend its arbitration agreement.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen has twice ordered Uber Technologies Inc. to inform new drivers of a pending class action before asking them to sign an arbitration agreement and to change language he deemed potentially misleading and coercive.
On Thursday, Chen issued an order concluding that Uber’s revised clause was almost there—but not quite. Uber must allow drivers to opt out by email, put the opt-out procedure in boldface text, and provide contact information for plaintiffs attorneys in the notice, he wrote.
Uber, which is facing at least two suits accusing the rideshare company of withholding tips customers believed drivers were receiving, had argued that accepting opt-out notices electronically would require the company to “reprogram its systems and create new functionality.”
But Chen wasn’t buying it. “[L]ittle technology is required simply to provide an email address to which drivers can send an opt out notice,” he wrote, adding that using email would improve tracking and reduce disputes.
Chen also wrote he was concerned about allegations that Uber has continued to send its banned arbitration agreement to new drivers. Uber’s lawyers at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius attributed the mistake to a technical glitch.
Plaintiffs attorneys with Boston-based Lichten & Liss-Riordan had suggested Chen consider the drivers who received the communications to have opted out as a sanction for the company’s “continued failure to abide by the court’s orders.”
Uber vehemently contested that suggestion and Chen denied relief “unless plaintiffs present something more than an expression of suspicion.”
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