Uber gave drivers more control to prove they’re independent. Now the company is taking back control because drivers actually used it.

GettyImages 1176816141 (1) NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 24: Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, UBER, speaks onstage during the 2019 Concordia Annual Summit - Day 2 at Grand Hyatt New York on September 24, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for Concordia Summit)
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

  • Uber is revoking California drivers’ ability to set prices and see trip destinations in advance, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
  • Uber gave drivers more control in 2020 to avoid reclassifying drivers as employees under AB-5.
  • But it reversed course after Prop 22 exempted it from AB-5, saying drivers turned down too many rides.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In late 2019, California lawmakers passed AB-5, hoping to make it harder for companies like Uber to skirt labor laws and offload healthcare and unemployment insurance costs to taxpayers by misclassifying workers as contractors.

But Uber refused to comply, arguing that AB-5 didn’t apply to its drivers because they aren’t core to its business and that drivers really are independent because they’re “free from the control and direction” of Uber.

In an attempt to prove its independence argument, in January 2020, Uber gave California drivers more control by allowing them to set their own prices for rides and see passengers’ destinations before picking them up.

Regulators and courts didn’t buy it. But fortunately for Uber, a $200 million PR campaign around Proposition 22 successfully persuaded California voters to exempt it from AB-5, saving the company as much as $500 million per year, according to a 2019 estimate by Barclays analysts.

Now that Uber no longer needs to convince California authorities that its drivers are independent, the company plans to reclaim control, revoking the price-setting and passenger destination features it gave drivers barely a year ago, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Monday.

Uber’s reason for the reversal?

Too many drivers took advantage of the control Uber gave them, picking the most profitable rides while declining others, making it harder for customers to get rides and hurting Uber’s business, the company said. According to the Chronicle, one-third of drivers turned down 80% of rides.

Industry observers said the move is hardly surprising but it undermines Uber’s claim that the changes were ever about anything more than dodging regulation.

Uber did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

“It really shouldn’t be a shock to anyone,” Harry Campbell, who runs The Rideshare Guy, a popular blog among drivers, told Insider. “Since they passed Prop 22… there’s nothing holding them accountable for these changes.”

Campbell said that drivers likely won’t be happy given the popularity of the price-setting and passenger destination features, but added, “It’s kind of, unfortunately, a bit of a pattern that Uber specifically often gives drivers some things that they want and then ends up taking them away.”

“Is there a single Prop 22 promise that Uber hasn’t broken?’ Gig Workers Rising, which advocates on behalf of ride-hailing and food delivery drivers, tweeted in response to the Chronicle’s reporting, alluding to Uber’s history of misleading claims during its Prop 22 campaign.

But by revoking some driver-friendly features, Uber – which has yet to turn a profit – also revealed some of its post-pandemic priorities.

Companies like Uber and Lyft rely on flooding the market with drivers, who then face pressure to accept lower-paying rides and risk another driver getting the job or getting penalized themselves for turning down too many rides, even if those rides are unprofitable.

But during the pandemic, there has been a massive shortage of Uber and Lyft drivers, due to a drop in demand for rides and a concern among drivers about getting sick (the companies don’t provide healthcare or sick pay). And even as rider demand returns, many drivers are still staying home.

With fewer drivers on the road and Uber drivers able to freely reject unprofitable rides, they’re driving up their wages. That means higher prices and longer wait times for passengers, which Uber isn’t happy about.

“The companies, strangely, they care more about reliability than profitability at this moment in time,” Campbell said. “They want to make sure that the platform is working like everyone expects and if drivers are ignoring 80% of requests, that means that it literally is going to take longer for you to get matched with a driver.”

Campbell said Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and other platforms are offering huge incentives to drivers – like a $250 bonus for completing 20 rides – as they struggle to get them back on the road.

As with past promises, those incentives and other driver-friendly features could just as easily disappear if the market becomes saturated with drivers again and companies regain the upper hand, but Campbell said that there needs to be a middle ground.

“If Uber is going to be able to get away with paying drivers like independent contractors, I think that’s kind of some of the control that they have to give up and find a way to make work.”

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Uber ordered to pay $1.1 million to blind passenger who was denied rides 14 separate times

GettyImages 577083258  DENVER, CO - JULY 18: Mike Hess, who is blind, get a ride from an Uber driver after his lunch meeting in Cherry Creek, July 18, 2016. Hess relies heavily on Uber to get around. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
A blind passenger gets into an Uber in Denver, Colorado (Lisa Irving not pictured).

An independent arbitrator on Thursday ordered Uber to pay $1.1 million to a blind passenger for illegally discriminating against her after its drivers refused her rides on 14 occasions.

The arbitrator also rejected Uber’s argument it wasn’t liable for discrimination by its drivers because they’re contractors.

Uber said it strongly disagreed with the ruling.

Lisa Irving, a San Francisco Bay Area resident who is blind and relies on her seeing-eye dog, Bernie, to help her get around, brought the claim against Uber in 2018 after “she was either denied a ride altogether or harassed by Uber drivers not wanting to transport her with her guide dog,” according to the arbitrator’s ruling.

Uber drivers left Irving stranded late at night, caused her to be late to work (which eventually contributed to her getting fired), and on two occasions, verbally abused and intimidated her – and that the discrimination didn’t stop even after she complained to Uber, her lawyers told Insider in a statement.

“Of all Americans who should be liberated by the rideshare revolution, the blind and visually impaired are among those who stand to benefit the most. However, the track record of major rideshare services has been spotty at best and openly discriminatory at worst,” Catherine Cabalo, one of Irving’s attorneys, said in the statement.

“The bottom line is that under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a guide dog should be able to go anywhere that a blind person can go,” Cabalo added.

“We are proud Uber’s technology has helped people who are blind locate and obtain rides. Drivers using the Uber app are expected to serve riders with service animals and comply with accessibility and other laws, and we regularly provide education to drivers on that responsibility. Our dedicated team looks into each complaint and takes appropriate action,” Uber spokesperson Andrew Hasbun told Insider in a statement.

But the arbitrator found Uber employees who investigated possible incidents of discrimination were “trained … to coach drivers to find non-discriminatory reasons for ride denials” and even to “‘advocate’ to keep drivers on the platform despite discrimination complaints.”

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s illegal for transportation businesses that are subject to the law to refuse to transport people with guide dogs, but Uber tried to shift the blame to its drivers, arguing it wasn’t responsible for any ADA violations because its drivers are independent contractors.

The arbitrator disagreed, ruling Uber was also liable for ADA violations because of its “contractual supervision over its drivers and for its failure to prevent discrimination by properly training its workers.”

However, classifying drivers as contractors is a strategy that has allowed Uber to avoid legal liability in other contexts, such as when a pedestrian alleged that she nearly lost her leg after being struck by an Uber.

The strategy has also allowed Uber to avoid paying drivers’ health insurance, sick pay, and unemployment insurance, shifting those costs to taxpayers – who paid $80 million last year to keep Uber and Lyft drivers afloat during the pandemic, making the companies one of the largest beneficiaries of a subsidy program aimed at small businesses.

Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hailing and food delivery companies have aggressively fought efforts in multiple states and countries to reclassify drivers as employees, which would add significant additional costs to their already unprofitable business models. Earlier this week, UK-based food delivery company Deliveroo’s initial public offering tanked by 30% after investors expressed concerned about how it had exploited its drivers.

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How to get your prescriptions delivered through Uber and avoid a trip to the pharmacy

Prescription Delivery
You can use the Uber Eats app or the NimbleRx website to set up prescription delivery through Uber.

  • You can get prescriptions delivered through Uber by signing up as a patient with NimbleRx.
  • NimbleRx offers next- or same-day, contactless prescription deliveries to users in several major cities.
  • To sign up for Uber’s prescription deliveries, link your NimbleRx account to UberEats.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

In August 2020, Uber announced it would start making contactless prescription deliveries straight to customers’ doors. The feature aims to help vulnerable people receive the medications they need safely, without having to venture out to their local pharmacy.

To make this possible, Uber Health, a HIPAA-secure service, teamed up with NimbleRx, a company that works with local pharmacies to get customers’ prescriptions delivered the same or next day.

If you live in one of the markets served, you can start to get your prescriptions delivered through the UberEats app.

How Uber prescription delivery works

Depending on what device and method you prefer, you can have your current and future prescriptions delivered through the UberEats mobile app or the NimbleRx website.

But before you begin either process, you’ll want to have the names of your prescriptions, your pharmacy address, and your insurance card – if you have one – with you.

FILE PHOTO: A UnitedHealth Group health insurance card is seen in a wallet in this picture illustration October 14, 2019. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Illustration/File Photo
You’ll need your insurance card if you want to pay with it.

The Uber Health program is limited to a few select markets across the United States, including New York City, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Chicago, Seattle, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, and Austin, with plans for future expansion.

However, similar to how UberEats isn’t available for all restaurants, not all pharmacies can deliver prescriptions through Uber. If your pharmacy isn’t available, you can be connected to one that will deliver to you, or have your physician send new ones to Uber Right Choice Pharmacy. The transfer process will take a few days, but once it’s complete, you can order and manage future orders with them through the app.

Deliveries come next- or same-day in discreet packaging with no delivery fee, and you can pay using your insurance. NimbleRx will use what insurance you have on file with your pharmacy, though you’ll want to check with NimbleRx as there are some insurance exclusions. Delivery is currently free, but Uber notes that it’s only a limited time offer.

It’s also important to know that while many prescriptions are eligible for delivery, there’s currently no option for controlled substances.

How to get prescriptions delivered by Uber

Before you can get any prescriptions delivered, you’ll need a NimbleRx patient account. You can sign up for this on the NimbleRx Website.

Sign up through the NimbleRx website

1. Head to NimbleRx and select either “Yes, I have a prescription” or “I will see a doctor soon.”

2. You’ll need to input your personal information, and then prove your identity so that it can be confirmed with your local pharmacy. You’ll also need to verify your mobile phone number by clicking the link they text you in order to activate your account.

how to get prescriptions delivered on uber 2
You will need to enter your information to begin the process.

After successfully signing up for an account, you’ll be prompted to choose your pharmacy as well as the prescription medication you’re ordering. You can use this menu to order your prescriptions through NimbleRx’s own delivery service.

Read on for instructions on how to link NimbleRx to your Uber account.

If you don’t have a prescription that you want to be delivered immediately, you can also set up future prescription deliveries.

How to use Alexa Care Hub to help monitor and contact older relatives or friendsHow to request an Uber with a car seat for your childHow to use Uber Assist or WAV, for riders who may need additional help to enter and exit a vehicleWhat is Uber Eats? Here’s what you need to know about the ride-hailing service’s food delivery app

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Court rules Uber and Lyft must face worker-misclassification lawsuit from Massachusetts’ attorney general

Uber Lyft

A Massachusetts state court on Thursday rejected requests by Uber and Lyft to dismiss a lawsuit accusing the companies of illegally misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors.

The lawsuit, brought by the Massachusetts state attorney general Maura Healey in July, alleged the companies have denied drivers benefits and workplace protections guaranteed to employees by instead classifying them as contractors.

Uber and Lyft then asked the court to toss the case, arguing the state hadn’t done enough to prove drivers were denied benefits and that there wasn’t a legitimate legal dispute over the issue. The court denied both companies’ requests, allowing the case to proceed.

Uber and Lyft did not respond to requests for comment on this story, while labor and driver groups praised the ruling.

“This court order is a complete rejection of Uber and Lyft’s position and a big win for working people,” Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Steve Tolman told Insider in a statement.

“Every worker should be able to earn a decent wage, take care of their health, and protect against harassment and discrimination on the job. We thank Attorney General Healey and her team for holding Uber and Lyft accountable for following the same rules that apply to every other company,” Tolman added.

The two ride-hailing giants have faced an increasing number of legal challenges in recent years over how they classify workers amid growing evidence many drivers are paid less than the minimum wage, and have struggled – particularly during the pandemic – without access to health care, labor protections, and unemployment benefits guaranteed by law to employees.

While companies are typically required to pay into state and federal programs benefiting their workers, Uber and Lyft have passed those costs on to taxpayers. A recent Washington Post analysis found more than 27,000 Uber and Lyft drivers received a combined $80 million from the US government to help them get through the pandemic.

The companies have argued drivers should be considered contractors because they’re able to choose when they can work and which rides they accept, claiming the companies are simply technology platforms that connect drivers and riders.

But a UK court recently rejected that argument, finding Uber and Lyft exercise significant control over drivers – much like a traditional employer – by setting their rates, assigning them rides, and using a rating system to determine their ability to get work on the platform. Uber responded by reclassifying its drivers as “workers,” a category under UK law between employment and contractor, in order to head off further legal disputes with drivers.

California regulators and courts also rejected the arguments put forth by Uber and Lyft, but the companies – along with a coalition of food-delivery companies including DoorDash and Instacart – avoided having to comply with those rulings by spending a combined $200 million to persuade voters to pass a law they wrote that keeps drivers as contractors.

The companies have also spent record amounts on lobbying as the worker classification issue takes the national stage.

The Biden administration’s proposed PRO Act, which wouldn’t automatically reclassify gig workers but would make it easier for them to unionize, has elevated the discussion around which rights and benefits rideshare and food-delivery workers should have – and who should bear those costs.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SoftBank is under investigation by the SEC following its risky ‘Nasdaq whale’ investments

masayoshi son softbank

The Japanese investing conglomerate SoftBank, which has holdings in household names like Apple, Amazon, Tesla, Uber, DoorDash, and Sprint, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Vice News reported Wednesday.

The agency’s acknowledgment of its investigation follows reporting by the Financial Times last year that revealed SB Northstar, which is controlled by SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, as the “Nasdaq whale” behind secretive, risky multibillion-dollar bets on tech stocks during last summer’s market rally.

The SEC disclosed the investigation in response to a public records request from Think Computer Foundation founder Aaron Greenspan, according to the legal transparency group PlainSite.

Greenspan had asked for “any investigative materials” about SoftBank or its web of companies “specifically relating to SoftBank’s trading of stocks and derivatives on those stocks,” according to PlainSite. After initially denying that it had any relevant records, the SEC responded to Greenspan’s appeal by saying that it had records, but couldn’t share them, because “the investigation from which you seek records is active and ongoing.”

SoftBank and the SEC did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

SoftBank faced intense pressure from its major shareholders to unwind its risky options positions after SB Northstar posted $3.7 billion in losses in November, which included $2.7 billion in derivatives losses, the Financial Times reported in November. SoftBank eventually relented to that pressure.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Uber will pay its 70,000 UK-based drivers minimum wage and benefits following a major Supreme Court defeat

uber driver prop 22
Rideshare driver Teresa Mercado raises her fist in support as app based gig workers held a driving demonstration with 60-70 vehicles blocking Spring Street in front of Los Angeles City Hall urging voters to vote no on Proposition 22 on Oct. 8, 2020.

  • Uber is reclassifying its UK-based drivers as “workers,” it said in a regulatory filing Tuesday.
  • The move requires Uber to follow minimum wage, paid vacation, and other labor laws.
  • Uber strongly opposes efforts to reclassify its drivers, but pivoted in the UK after a legal defeat.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Uber announced Tuesday it will reclassify drivers in the United Kingdom as “workers,” guaranteeing them minimum wage, paid vacation, pensions, and additional protection under the country’s labor laws.

In a statement, Uber told Insider the move will impact more than 70,000 drivers, and follows a recent unanimous Supreme Court decision that determined drivers should be classified as workers.

Uber initially downplayed the ruling, saying it “focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016,” though shares of Uber dropped as much as 2% following the ruling.

With Tuesday’s announcement, Uber has opted to reclassify all UK drivers rather than fight legal battles with individual drivers about whether the court’s ruling would apply to them.

“Uber is just one part of a larger private-hire industry, so we hope that all other operators will join us in improving the quality of work for these important workers who are an essential part of our everyday lives,” Jamie Heywood, the regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, told Insider in a statement.

The move is a major shift for Uber, which has aggressively fought rulings by courts and regulators in the US that have determined drivers to be employees as opposed to contractors. In California, Uber spent at least $30 million persuading voters to pass Proposition 22, a law it co-authored that carved out an exemption from state labor laws to allow rideshare and food delivery drivers to be treated as contractors.

Unlike American law, which defines workers as employees or contractors, UK law has an additional “worker” category, which entitles workers to receive the minimum wage, paid vacation, rest breaks, and protections against illegal discrimination, retaliation for whistleblowing, and wage theft. That classification falls short of guaranteeing benefits like parental leave and severance to which full employees are entitled.

Uber said the UK minimum wage, which is slightly above $12, will serve as an “earnings floor, not an earnings ceiling” after accounting for roughly 62 cents in per-mile expenses, but that drivers won’t be paid for the time they spend waiting for a ride – which some researchers have found accounts for as much as 33% of drivers’ work.

Uber also said it will pay drivers around 12% of their earnings as vacation pay every two weeks and enroll them in a pension plan to which Uber will also contribute.

Labor advocates voiced their support for the move and the court ruling that proceeded it.

“Dear America … see what happens when a government lays it down? Is Uber leaving? No, they’re actually doing right by their workforce in the UK. Our drivers deserve this too. Why would an American company short change American workers? Because we let them!” tweeted California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the author of AB-5, the state labor law that Uber sought an exemption from by pushing Prop 22.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to prepare your business for unexpected disruptions and remain profitable through uncertainty

man getting into car ride share uber lyft
Business owners should be prepared for industry shifts, like how Uber affected taxicab drivers.

  • Per Bylund, PhD, is an assistant professor of entrepreneurship and at Oklahoma State University. 
  • He says businesses of all sizes should be prepared for unexpected disruptions outside of their control.
  • Make sure your business is consumer-oriented, and focus on keeping your company profitable.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Starting a business and making it break even is an extremely difficult accomplishment. Kudos to entrepreneurs managing this feat. But running a business is also no cakewalk. No profitable niche lasts forever, and the more profitable it is, the slimmer the chances are that it will last. Many entrepreneurs, including those with seemingly safe businesses, lost everything when their industries were unexpectedly disrupted. 

The taxicab industry is a telling example. It was benefiting from protective regulations that effectively had kept competition low for decades, yet all it took was a couple of tech-savvy guys – Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp of Uber – to upend the whole industry. Even though their business was not to provide regular taxi service, their innovation undermined that business. Uber and other similar services caused many taxicab companies to go bankrupt and the market value of taxi medallions to plummet. 

In other words, your business is not safe even if you are already making nice profits and the future looks bright. After all, even protected monopolies eventually get disrupted. What you need is to make sure you can stay profitable in the years and decades to come.

Profitability is to meet the future 

The key to profitability is to recognize what businesses are and do from the perspective of the whole economy. Businesses formulate strategies to position themselves with respect to each other and thereby earn profits. So the economic context matters, because it is within the economy that you run your business. It’s an obvious point, but what it means is rarely considered.

In the startup phase, the entrepreneur tries to find and populate a “gap” that allows the business to become profitable. But the same is true for the existing business, which must continue to consider its positioning to stay profitable. That’s what the old-style “Five Forces” framework helps you do – to position your business so that competitors, suppliers, customers and others have as little sway over it as possible. But there is more to it than positioning.

Profits are rewards for a job well-done. But to maintain profitability, your sight must be set to facilitate future value. After all, the line of production that you’re considering today will not be instantaneously available to your customers. The value they get from the goods and services you set out to produce will without exception happen in the future. In other words, profits indicate you did something right. But profitability is a matter of meeting the future. 

Customer isn’t king, but consumer is

The key to profitability is to imagine how you are contributing to making consumers better off. Note: “consumers” not “customers.” In our advanced economy, with two-thirds of all spending being business-to-business (B2B), your customer may not be the consumer. But the consumer is the user of the final product and therefore the one that determines its value. The consumer, therefore, determines also the value of all contributions in the supply chain, albeit indirectly. 

This subtle point has important implications. Businesses that produce the final product must focus on what consumers want and, more importantly, what they will want in the near future. But the same applies for B2B to maintain profitability. If you produce for other businesses, the viability of your own business goes only as far as your customer’s. When they are no longer profitable, you are no longer profitable. 

To stay profitable over time, look beyond your customer and consider your contribution to the value of the final product. Even if your customer does not recognize it, you should meet the opportunity and innovate to offer your customer an upper hand. If you make your customers thrive, your business thrives. The key is to think about the consumer whether or not you serve them directly.

Microsoft is an example of how to apply this thinking. While the software giant caters primarily to corporations and large institutions, they look ahead and continuously innovate to make it easier for their customers to serve consumers. From software to hardware, Microsoft focuses on providing the tools for productivity. This empowers their customers to serve their customers and, eventually, the consumer. In other words, Microsoft indirectly facilitates value for consumers, which makes Microsoft’s customers competitive and profitable.

Whether or not your business caters directly to consumers, it should still be consumer-oriented. To gain and maintain relevance in the economy, which is necessary to be (and continue being) profitable, requires that you contribute to the value of the final good. The great mistake of the taxicab companies was to focus on their strategic positioning in the market over innovating to facilitate value for consumers. This left the market wide open for a new type of competitor playing by a different rulebook.

All businesses benefit from adopting a consumer-value focus.

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How to contact Uber support as a driver or rider if you need help resolving an issue

Uber phone app car
There are different ways to contact Uber, depending on if you are a driver or passenger.

  • You can contact Uber to get help as a driver or rider in many different ways. 
  • The easiest way to contact Uber is via the mobile app — in the Support Center for drivers or Your Trips for riders. 
  • To contact Uber by phone, there is an emergency number and a customer support line, so use the appropriate one for your situation. 
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Whether you’re a driver or a passenger, Uber generally provides a smooth transportation experience. 

But occasionally, you might need to reach out and get help from a real person at the ridesharing company. If so, there are a handful of ways for you to get assistance. 

How to contact Uber if you’re a driver 

As a driver, you can contact Uber for assistance through the mobile app, which will directly connect you with live support. You can also get help in person at an Uber Greenlight location, or reach out to Uber through social media.

How to contact Uber if you’re a rider 

As a rider, you can contact Uber for assistance through the mobile app, reach out for support via social media, or call the local support line. 

How to contact Uber Eats in several different ways if you experience an issue with your orderHow to contact your Uber driver before and after your trip, to arrange pick-up and report lost itemsHow to contact Lyft through the mobile app or website for customer support and moreHow to place an Uber Eats group order and let everyone pick out their own order for a single delivery

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Meet the Uber drivers who spent 5 years fighting the ride-hailing firm for basic workers’ rights – and won

Former Uber drivers James Farrar (L) and Yaseen Aslam react as they leave the Employment Appeals Tribunal in central London on November 10, 2017. US ride-hailing app Uber on Friday lost a landmark case in Britain that would give drivers the right to paid holidays and the national minimum wage, lawyers representing the claimants said. Farrar, who brought the test case with fellow former driver Aslam, called Uber's business plan "brutally exploitative". Uber said it will appeal the ruling.
Former Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam leaving an employment appeals tribunal in 2017.

  • Two ex-Uber drivers won a huge legal battle against the taxi app firm over workers’ rights.
  • Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar began the case in 2016, fighting for minimum wage and other rights.
  • Farrar said Uber is being defiant about the ruling but hopes it’ll come to accept it.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Five years after they took Uber to court, two ex-drivers on Friday won a legal battle against the ride-hailing firm.

Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar were part of a small group of drivers who brought the original case against Uber in 2015. Aslam and his colleague Farrar, president and general secretary of the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) respectively, claimed Uber was breaking UK employment law by failing to offer basic worker rights, such as holiday pay and national minimum wage. They won the case.

Uber disputed the claims, saying it acted like other traditional minicab firms and counted its drivers as self-employed contractors. At the time, this meant drivers had minimal protections, including no sick pay and Uber could avoid the costs of paying minimum wage. In 2017, Uber appealed the original ruling and lost.

Uber then appealed the case in the UK’s Supreme Court and the process dragged on into February 2021. Again, the company lost, marking the end of its legal road. The outcome could threaten Uber’s business model in the UK – one of its biggest markets – if it is forced to cough up back pay for thousands of drivers who may bring cases, and if it must pay higher taxes.

The dispute will go back to an employment tribunal, which will decide how much the 25 drivers who brought the case five years ago will be awarded. Aslam believes he’s entitled to between £10,000 and £12,000.

“I was delighted,” he told Insider. “It means a lot. I didn’t just do it for myself, I did it for the workers and drivers. I’m just a driver who spoke up for injustice.”

Aslam, who is based in the UK, worked for Uber between 2013 and 2017. Once, during his time at the company, he says Uber “deactivated” him for organizing a campaign against the company’s treatment of drivers. This meant the company didn’t allow him to access the app to pick up passengers, he said. 

“I’m not anti-Uber and I’m not there to shut Uber down. But the law is there for a reason,” he added. Uber did not respond when Insider asked it to comment on Aslam’s claims of deactivation.

Uber’s business model 

When Aslam first started working at Uber, he said it was good. He earned £50 an hour, got a £10 bonus for each ride, and the fares were higher. Plus, the company “put the drivers first.”

As he continued working for the company, however, the fares got cheaper and the bonuses stopped, he says. After the launch of UberPool, a service launched in 2015 that allows people to split ride costs with another person who is travelling in the same direction, drivers were earning even less, according to Aslam.

Back in 2016, CNN also reported that drivers said UberPool meant more work, but not necessarily more pay. Aslam said drivers have realised that Uber is “hiding behind technology to control workers.”

According to Aslam, Uber’s business model involves mass recruiting and flooding the streets with drivers and cars, while keeping fares cheap to attract customers. This has long been a criticism of Uber and its business model – that the firm, initially funded by huge amounts of private capital, could afford to keep cab fares artificially low at the expense of drivers and the competition.

Although Aslam thinks businesses such as Uber should exist, he said they “rely on exploiting people and they go for a mass scaling model and I think it’s wrong.” He believes the customer should take some responsibility in the pricing as there’s a human cost involved: “There’s someone behind that wheel and they need to have rights.”

The case still isn’t over

“The devil is in the details now,” Farrar told Insider. He said Uber is being defiant about committing to implement the ruling.

After the recent ruling, Uber was quick to point out that it only applied to the group of 25 drivers who brought the case in 2016. It also said the ruling was specific to how Uber’s business operated when the drivers initially filed a lawsuit, and that the business has since changed.

“Uber is trying to spin a line to drivers that this ruling only applies to the original claimants and not to all drivers,”  said Farrar, who worked for Uber between 2015 and 2016. “Not only is it untrue but it’s demonstrably contrary to the spirit of the ruling.”

He hopes Uber is just going through “a stage of emotional grief and denial” and that it will accept the ruling. But if not, he said the government and regulator Transport for London (TfL) needs to step in. 

Claims against Uber are already piling up

If the government doesn’t enforce the law and TfL doesn’t step in, Farrar said he and other drivers would have to “pile up litigation” against Uber.

Indeed, thousands of claimants are already making claims against the firm. Nigel Mackay, a partner at Leigh Day Solicitors, said his company currently has 3,500 clients with claims against Uber.

Farrar, who formed an organization called Worker Info Exchange to help app workers like Uber drivers access their data from companies they work for, said these types of claims could become extremely expensive for the taxi app company. He believes there’ll be a cottage industry of lawyers making continuous claims against Uber “because it’s an easy win.”

He added: “It’s embarrassing that the poorest people on minimum wage have to go to the Supreme Court against one of the most powerful companies on Earth.”

Although Uber did not respond to Insider’s request for comment, the company sent a press release shortly after the ruling, featuring a statement from Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for northern and eastern Europe.

It said: “We respect the court’s decision which focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016. Since then we have made some significant changes to our business, guided by drivers every step of the way. These include giving even more control over how they earn and providing new protections like free insurance in case of sickness or injury.  We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

You can now book a Lyft ride without using the app – just like a taxi

lyft sign
Lyft.

  • Lyft rides in select Florida cities can now be hailed over the phone, like a taxi.
  • Instead of using the app, customers can call 631-201-LYFT to book a ride through a Lyft agent.
  • The new option is “perfect” for seniors or people who can’t use the app, the company says.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Lyft is taking a page out of the taxi playbook by letting people in select Florida cities call for a car instead of using the Lyft app.

The new feature allows passengers to book an on-demand ride by speaking to a Lyft agent at 631-201-LYFT between Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Processes that are needed to hail a Lyft car through the app can then be completed over the phone. This includes making the credit or debit card payment, and verbally agreeing to health protocols implemented during COVID-19.

Instead of tracking the trip’s progress through the app, Lyft will then text its Call A Lyft Ride passengers with ride information and a tracking link that can be shared with other people.

According to Lyft, this new ride hailing option is “perfect” for seniors and people unable to use the app in Florida cities like Boca Raton, Orlando, Miami, and Fort Myers. You can find the full list of eligible cities on Lyft’s website.

This isn’t Lyft’s only app-less ride hailing option: passengers can also request a ride through ride.lyft.com. Like Call A Lyft Ride, users who’ve booked a car through the website will receive texted updates about the journey.

Uber, Lyft’s larger competitor,  has also previously explored bookings off of the app. In 2019 it introduced kiosks in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, allowing passengers to call an Uber car without using their smartphones.

Read the original article on Business Insider