Fine print alert!
Uber, the controversial ride-sharing giant, quietly changed its terms of service to foist mandatory arbitration on its users. This is a common tactic of large corporations lately, taking away consumers’ rights to sue when they are harmed due to negligence. Arbitration is often full of hidden biases, with a natural financial motivation for less-than-ethical arbitrators to tilt in the direction of the companies that pay them.
The change means that a passenger injured in an Uber vehicle due to its driver’s negligence would be required to arbitrate any claims for personal injuries before the American Arbitration Association, because the passenger had technically agreed to the terms and conditions of the Uber contract every passenger must accept. How would long-time customers know about the change from the original Uber conditions? They wouldn’t, unless they regularly cruised the company’s website.
On July 29, 2016, Judge Rakoff from the Southern District of New York ruled that the notice of Uber arbitration terms was not sufficient to let riders know that they were waiving the right to sue, and thus the mandatory arbitration provision was unenforceable. Uber’s response was to send an email to its users, announcing that it was updating its terms effective November 21, 2016. Uber also instructed its users to read the new Terms and stated it had “revised our arbitration agreement.” Now they have you, because Uber users can no longer claim that they didn’t know about the new terms. When you use the service, you are stuck. You have waived the right to sue.
There is a large “but,” however.
An Uber user can still reject the November 21, 2016 Terms by providing Uber with written notice by mail, by hand delivery or by email within 30 days of November 21, 2016. Like many companies, Uber’s “notice” consists of a hard-to-find section on its website. The mechanics of rejecting the new terms information are virtually buried on Uber’s legal page, and read,
Uber may amend the Terms from time to time. Amendments will be effective upon Uber’s posting of such updated Terms at this location or in the amended policies or supplemental terms on the applicable Service(s). Your continued access or use of the Services after such posting confirms your consent to be bound by the Terms, as amended. If Uber changes these Terms after the date you first agreed to the Terms (or to any subsequent changes to these Terms), you may reject any such change by providing Uber written notice of such rejection within 30 days of the date such change became effective, as indicated in the “Effective” date above. This written notice must be provided either (a) by mail or hand delivery to our registered agent for service of process, c/o Uber USA, LLC (the name and current contact information for the registered agent in each state are available online here), or (b) by email from the email address associated with your Account to: email@example.com. In order to be effective, the notice must include your full name and clearly indicate your intent to reject changes to these Terms. By rejecting changes, you are agreeing that you will continue to be bound by the provisions of these Terms as of the date you first agreed to the Terms (or to any subsequent changes to these Terms).
Please note: If the rejection is by email, the email must come from rider’s account he or she uses to book Uber, and be sent to change-dr@Uber.com. The official rejection must include the individual’s full name and explicitly state the intent to reject the changes to the Uber’s terms.
By rejecting the November 21, 2016 Terms before December 21, the rider can continue to use Uber under the Terms he or she first agreed to when the they signed up, , and thus still have the option of suing and having the suit heard in a courtroom.
Pointer: Advice Goddess Blog