House Republicans sent a letter Thursday to Uber asking the tech company to explain what steps it is taking in response to drivers' complaints that they’re being asked to deliver packages they suspect to be drugs.
The letter from members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee cites reporting from NBC News that described the concerns of drivers as well as the case of a 22-year-old Arizona woman who died from an overdose of fentanyl that her mother said was delivered via Uber Connect, a courier service that the San Francisco-based ride-hailing app started at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic so that people could send small items across town.
The letter is signed by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who is expected to become chair of the committee next month when Republicans have a House majority, and four other Republicans on the committee.
“We have championed the development of new technologies and the benefits and convenience which the gig economy provides our constituents — especially during labor shortages that hurt delivery and mobility options for Americans,” the lawmakers wrote.
“However, this new innovative method for transporting essential goods may also be taken advantage of by bad actors looking to move illegal or harmful products to unwitting Americans, including children,” they wrote.
Uber said in a statement late Thursday that it is committed to preventing and investigating alleged criminal activity.
“Criminal efforts to spread illicit drugs are a growing scourge in our communities. We stand ready to do our part and work together with law enforcement and elected leaders to prevent the abuse of platforms like ours,” the company said.
Uber added that when it receives reports of alleged crimes, it bans accounts and makes reports to law enforcement. It said it encourages drivers to report suspected illegal activity.
A spokesperson for McMorris Rodgers said she would be sending letters to other delivery companies, including Alto, Lyft and Roadie. Those companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
It’s not clear whether the committee’s Democrats have similar concerns. A spokesperson for the Democratic side did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The letter asks Uber to explain what actions the company has taken in response to drivers' complaints about suspected drugs; how the company would work with law enforcement in such a scenario; how many accounts Uber has deactivated as a result of users sending prohibited items; what information Uber collects about packages; and many other questions.
“Just as we have asked social media companies to do their part to curb the sale of drugs on their platforms, Uber must act to ensure Uber Connect is not used to transport untracked shipments of illicit drugs to Americans,” the lawmakers wrote.