Judges working for the Pennsylvania agency that regulates buses and taxis has recommended a record $50 million fine against ride-sharing company Uber. The judges argue that Uber was operating in the state without approval.
Two administrative law judges issued the decision, which must now be approved by the Public Utility Commission.
The fine would punish Uber for operating rides from February 2014 until it received an experimental authority license six months later.
The panel of judges rejected Uber’s argument that it is simply a software company whose services are not available to the public at large.
“Uber took a more active role in providing transportation service than simply providing the Uber app for people with cars to use to provide rides for people who need transportation – it was not a disinterested invisible entity in the background,” wrote judges Mary Long and Jeffrey Watson.
Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett said the San Francisco-based company was disappointed and hoped to come to a “reasonable resolution.”
Both company’s have 30-days to respond before the Public Utility Commission will consider the recommendation.
If Uber is forced to pay $50 million it will be the largest penalty ever paid to the agency.
Uber argued in the case that it provides needed transportation alternatives and said it believed a broker license held by a subsidiary was adequate. Uber argues that the agencies own investigation found that no harm was caused by Uber or its subsidiaries.
The judges found that the company arranged a “large number” of trips before a subsidiary obtained a two-year, emergency authorization by the state.
The proposed fine includes $73,000 related to Uber’s actions during the investigation, including failures to produce documents as required, the judges said.
The fee includes a punishment for continuing to operate for a full month after the commission issued a cease-and-desist order was issued.
“In sum, there is no excuse for Uber’s continued operations after July 1, 2014,” the judges wrote. “Its decision to do so was a deliberate disregard of the commission’s authority.”