Police have questioned an Uber executive about claims that the company conducts comprehensive background checks. An Indian official has called for a nationwide ban on the service after a driver was accused of rape.
Police official Brijendra Kumar Yadav has announced possible charges against Uber should police find that the app, which takes a cut of fares when connecting drivers to riders, misrepresented the safety of its service.
On Saturday, a 26-year-old woman who used Uber, which operates in 10 cities in India, for a ride home from a dinner engagement Friday night accused the driver of rape. Police arrested the driver on Sunday.
"What we are doing is trying to ascertain what knowledge Uber had of this person," Yadav said.
Police also questioned Gagn Bhatia, Uber's India general manager, and investigated whether the driver presented false documents. Authorities have not yet verified the suspect's claims that a court had acquitted him of rape charges in 2011, after he spent seven months in jail.
'Constantly improving standards'
New Delhi placed a temporary ban on Uber and app-based ride services Monday, and on Tuesday India's home minister called for states and territories to prohibit such companies nationwide. India's transportation minister has criticized New Delhi's ban on Uber, however, calling it an unfair response to the assault.
A statement on the Uber website promises that "every ridesharing and livery driver is thoroughly screened through a rigorous process we've developed using constantly improving standards."
Officer Yadav said Uber and similar services registered as technology businesses rather than transport companies and drivers did not receive police-issued badges following background checks as taxi hacks do. Uber claims to use registered drivers with valid licenses, but has not addressed police-issued badges.
"People don't take any extra safety precautions because they rely on the promise that is made to them," Yadav said on Tuesday.
Uber has attracted controversy worldwide. The company contracts drivers as independent contractors who use their own private cars rather than licensed cabs. Uber has faced restrictions in other countries after licensed taxi operators claimed that the service had engaged in anti-competitive practices.
The Uber case comes almost two years to the day after a group of men raped and beat a young woman on a moving bus in the capital New Delhi and has renewed national anger over sexual violence and led to demands for more efforts to ensure women's safety. The victim in the 2012 rape died of her injuries.
mkg/shs (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)