PR pros know the value words can hold—and Uber’s PR team recently got a heavy reminder.
Uber has agreed to issue refunds to more than 25 million customers to settle two lawsuits. The suits claimed that Uber used misleading language about fees for riders’ safety .
The Associated Press reports that if a judge approves the deal, the ride-hailing operation will pay a proposed $28.5 million to riders who made trips between Jan. 1, 2013 and Jan. 31, 2016, inclusive.
Under the settlement, Uber will also stop using “safety-related” language in certain advertisements. The service uses a private firm called Hirease to screen would-be drivers, which advertises its practices as “industry-leading.” The suits claim the opposite and assert that the brand’s word choice is misleading.
The agreement to update certain terminology includes changing the name of its “Safe Ride Fee” to “Booking Fee.”
Here’s how Uber described the fee in 2014:
This fee supports the increased costs associated with our continued efforts to ensure the safest platform for Uber riders and drivers. Those include federal, state and local background checks, regular motor vehicle screenings, driver safety education, current and future development of safety features in the app, and more.
Consumerist reported that in October 2015 the organization changed the fee’s amount depending where a customer lived—and in some cities cost as much as $2.50 per ride. Last week, Uber told Associated Press it believes its technology does provide important safety features, such as GPS tracking and sharing driver identification and license plate information with riders.
“No means of transportation can ever be 100 percent safe, [and] accidents and incidents do happen,” an Uber spokesman said. “That’s why it’s important to ensure that the language we use to describe safety at Uber is clear and precise.”
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Word choice has gotten Uber into hot water with consumers before. The brand canceled—and apologized for—a 2014 French promotion dubbed, “ rides from hot chicks.”
What do you think of Uber’s safety language update? Will the move help to prevent similar legal situations in the future?