I don't ever remember getting charged this fee, but everyone talks about it like it's a big deal. What gives?
What is Uber's Safe Rides Fee? What is the big fuss about?
The Guru Take
Safe Rides Fee is now a "Booking Fee" (more or less)
The short answer: It's now called the "Booking Fee", more or less.
The "Safe Rides Fee" was the fee charged directly to the UberX customers for every ride taken. Uber has described it as a surcharge to help offset the costs of improving their safety initiatives, such as driver screening and background checks. This was a fee that went directly to Uber, meani.ng the drivers saw no payout for this portion of the fare. Here's the description directly from Uber. It is no longer available on Uber.com:
From the beginning, we’ve always been committed to connecting you with the safest rides on the road. The Safe Rides Fee is a small fee added to uberX fares on behalf of drivers in cities with uberX ridesharing. This Safe Rides Fee supports continued efforts to ensure the safest possible platform for Uber riders and drivers, including an industry-leading background check process, regular motor vehicle checks, driver safety education, development of safety features in the app, and more. For complete pricing transparency, you’ll see this as a separate line item on every uberX receipt.
While it sounds noble, this was heavily challenged by the drivers and customers alike. Uber users challenged, "shouldn't this be a part of the cost of doing business?" The drivers felt cheated for not being paid out on this portion of the fare. Regulators challenged if Uber's claim of their background checks to be "industry leading" and if these fees were being directed to improving that claim.
A report from Bloomberg states that Uber raked in almost $500 million for charging this fee. (source)
It came down to a class-action lawsuit accusing Uber that they lied about the quality and thoroughness of their safety and background checks. It accused Uber of not having the quality of service they promised or advertised to have. The settlement is still being discussed, but a number of $28.5M has been discussed to be paid out to 25 million users. (more details here)
So there you have it. Now you know the dark history of the "Safe Ride Fees", which is basically just a booking fee. Semantics?