Tech Industry

Uber disputes kidnapping claims

A Los Angeles woman claims her Uber driver drove her 20 miles off her route and took her to an abandoned parking lot. Uber says the driver was dealing with an intoxicated passenger.

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Uber passengers request rides with a smartphone app. Uber

Ride-sharing service Uber says a Los Angeles passenger was intoxicated and asked for an extended ride. The passenger claims she was kidnapped by her driver and taken on a 20-mile joyride.

The passenger, who spoke with tech-news site Valleywag and asked not to be named, e-hailed an Uber car to take her home after a party last week. Instead, she told the publication, she was taken on a 20-mile detour through Los Angeles to an abandoned parking lot.

The woman says she was locked in the car and couldn't get out, according to Valleywag. After protesting and screaming, the driver reportedly took her home. The whole ordeal allegedly lasted more than two hours.

The next morning the woman reportedly contacted Uber to tell the company what happened. Its supposed response? An automated email apologizing for the "inefficient route," according to Valleywag. Uber reportedly reimbursed some of her fare that day and then refunded all of it the following day.

Uber, however, has a different version of the story. It says the rider requested to be driven around and that it has tried to reach out to her for more information.

"Early reports on this ride are inaccurate," Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend told CNET. "Based on the information we have at this time, this driver called 911 to ask for assistance with an intoxicated rider who requested an extended trip. However, we have refunded the rider's trip and reached out to the rider for additional information."

According to Valleywag, the woman has hired an attorney and is working with the Los Angeles Police Department. When contacted by CNET, the Los Angeles Police Department said it's not yet releasing details on its investigation.

Though the vast majority of Uber drivers are safe, courteous and competent, several incidents have occurred during the last year that have called into question the safety of the service. The most severe incident was the death of 6-year-old Sophia Liu, who was struck and killed by an Uber driver on New Year's Eve in San Francisco. There have also been more than a dozen allegations of sexual assault and groping; kidnapping; and physical assault, according to several media stories.

Last month in San Francisco an Uber driver allegedly hit a passenger in the face with a hammer, leaving him lying on the ground, bleeding and drifting in and out of consciousness. It's still unclear if the passenger will regain vision in one of his eyes, according to his lawyer, Harry Stern.

Uber requires its drivers to go through county, state and federal background checks that go back seven years, but it's possible for some people to either slip through the cracks or have erratic tendencies despite a clean record. Uber says in its terms and conditions that passengers use the application and the service at their own risk.

Just last week, the Better Business Bureau revealed that it gave Uber an F rating -- on a scale of A+ to F. The main reason for this failing grade was based on nearly 100 complaints the bureau received about Uber over the past three years. Many of the complaints pointed to difficulty contacting Uber's customer service and the company's failure to respond to grievances. In this situation, however, Uber maintains it responded to the woman right away to clear up any possible issues.

Update, 3:54 p.m. PT: Adds comment from Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend.