Bank of the West Taking Uber, Lyft Users for a Ride: Lawsuit

Uber and Lyft customers are literally being taken for a ride, according to a class action lawsuit filed in California.

The suit says specifically that it's not the ride-share companies but the banks, specifically Bank of the West, charging overdraft fees for some rides without customers' permission.

Overdraft protection only kicks in when you don't have enough money in your account. The key is that you have to ask your bank for it, pay for it, and if you don't have it your purchase is denied.

But Bank of the West charged customers overdraft fees without their consent, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit, filed in superior court in Los Angeles on behalf of Monah Stahl, alleges that Bank of the West charges overdraft fees for ride purchases from Uber and Lyft customers and for "other one-time transactions that it knows or should know are not recurring."

Recurring fees are generally thought of as scheduled payments made monthly or annually, like for a car loan, mortgage or insurance.

The lawsuit says Stahl was charged $35 in overdraft fees for using Uber and Lyft, which are not subscription services that you pay monthly. As Uber and Lyft users might already now, you pay for those ride-sharing services per ride.

Scott Edelsberg, Stahl's attorney, says his client never consented to paying for overdraft protection and that Bank of the West is violating California law in charging the fees without customer consent, creating unnecessary, costly debt for its customers.

"What we find is these people that are being charged overdraft fees can afford it the least," Edelsberg said. "They can't afford big payments. They're living paycheck to paycheck and when you add in these overdraft payments, these fees, it becomes impossible for them to keep up with these payments."

What shout be happing if a customer doesn't have the money in their account to cover an Uber or Lyft ride, Edelsberg said, is that the bank should simply deny the transaction for insufficient funds instead of charging overdraft fees for customers who haven't requested or consented to them.

When reached for comment by NBC4, Bank of the West sent a statement saying that it does not "discuss matters in litigation." A second bank, Bank of America, has recently settled a case alleging the same practice regarding overdraft fees.

Uber and Lyft also would not comment on the lawsuit.

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