Uber issued an apology today, several days after one of its drivers in India was accused of raping a passenger, and vowed to improve its verification and background process.
The move comes as the fallout from the incident ripples around the world, providing additional fodder for critics of the ride-sharing company who would like to see stricter regulations of its business, or even an all-out ban. The incident has also hit Uber in one of its fastest growing markets.
“We are sorry and deeply saddened by what happened over the weekend in New Delhi,” the company said in a blog post. “Our hearts go out to the victim of this horrible crime. We have been and will continue to do everything in our power to assist the authorities to help bring the perpetrator to justice.”
The company said it would suspend operations in Delhi, although Delhi authorities have already banned the service and the Indian government has already called for a ban on Uber throughout all of India.
In the meantime, the company said it would implement four measures to ensure greater safety for riders.
“The events of this week have made us reflect on our operations in India and we are immediately undertaking a number of important actions,” the post says.
Those steps include an audit of its verification, rider feedback, and support processes; an assessment of all driver screening processes; bringing in “global best practices where it would enhance our India safety efforts”; and partnering with groups that promote women’s safety.
Previously, Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick called the episode “horrific.”
“Our entire team’s hearts go out to the victim of this despicable crime,” he said in a statement. “We will do everything, I repeat, everything to help bring this perpetrator to justice and to support the victim and her family in her recovery.”
The case has caused an “uproar” in India, according to Reuters. Last week, a 26-year-old woman reported that her Uber driver had taken her to a secluded area and raped her. The police arrested a suspect and said he had confessed.
Investigators discovered that the suspect had faced previous charges for sex offenses, including rape. In sending the suspect to jail to await sentencing, the judge also asked police “to explain steps taken against Uber executives.”
The impact from the rape allegations is affecting Uber far beyond India. During the LeWeb 2014 conference in Paris today, French economic minister Emmanuel Macron was asked about his country’s ongoing legal battles with Uber and the growing number of regions such as India that are implementing bans.
While insisting that France embraces disruption, he also noted that it was the role of the government to ensure that it takes strong steps to protect consumers. That includes insisting that companies such as Uber conduct proper background checks and training of their drivers.
“These startups, they are part of this economy. And it’s fine and it’s good,” Macron said. “But when you speak about driving people, you have to protect people. You have to provide the best possible level in terms of security.”
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