New York City Councilors regretted their decision not to restrain growth of Uber

In 2015, the New York City Council declined to proceed with Mayor De Blasio’s proposal to cap the number of new Uber drivers (in part based on Uber’s vigorous advocacy). Looking back on that decision, the new Speaker of the New York City Council, Corey Johnson told WNYC radio that he had chosen the wrong approach. In particular, he explained, “given what we’ve seen and the explosive growth of this industry and how it’s affected the streets of New York City, I think we should have done more.”

Opposed De Blasio plan to limit number of vehicles

Concerned about growing congestion, New York City Mayor De Blasio proposed a bill to limit the issuance of new for-hire vehicle licenses. The proposal would have limited Uber to about 200 new drivers in New York during the subsequent year.

In response, Uber alerted its New York Customers — creating a “De Blasio’s Uber” feature that always showed either no cars available or a wait time of 25 minutes. Uber also sent emails to all Uber users in the district of New York Councilman Steve Levin who was sponsoring the bill. And Uber investor Ashton Kutcher Tweeted to criticize the proposal — as did Neil Patrick Harris, who had made money by Tweeting Uber signup links, as well as Kate Upton.

All told, Uber spent $1 million lobbying New York city government officials to defeat the driver cap bill.

Uber “software bug” led self-driving car to hit pedestrian

Uber researched the March 2018 incident in which an Uber self-driving vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Uber found that the vehicle’s onboard sensors did in fact detect the woman in the vehicle’s path, but the vehicle’s software incorrectly decided shew as a “false positive” and that the car did not need to stop for her.

Experts on self-driving car technologies said a tradeoff is required, between smooth rides and jerky stop-and-start to pause for potential objects.

Victims of sexual assault, rape, harassment, and gender-motivated violence criticized Uber’s arbitration clause

Fourteen victims of sexual assault, rape, harassment, and gender-motivated violence criticized Uber’s arbitration clause, which prevented them from bringing lawsuits about the harm they suffered. Their letter to Uber’s Board of Directors asked that Uber remove (or agree not to enforce) its arbitration clause as to these complaints. They noted a California case in which Uber aggressively sought to force one of their complaints into confidential arbitration. They also noted pending legislation in the United States Congress and New York State Senate that would disallow companies from requiring victims of sexual harassment or assault to proceed in arbitration.

News coverage from The Mercury News and Recode.

Australian competition regulator scrutinized Uber Eats contracts

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said he would examine controversial contract provisions Uber required restaurants to accept when selling food through the Uber Eats delivery service. Restaurants complained about contract terms that said they, and not Uber, were responsible for late deliveries — though they thought it was Uber, and not them, that caused delays and was better positioned to make sure deliveries were on time.

EU’s top court said France can bring criminal charges against Uber managers

The Court of Justice of the European Union (Europe’s highest court) ruled that France can bring criminal proceedings against Uber. Uber had argued that its service was an “information society service,” but the Court said that Uber is a transport service. The difference was important: A new national law regulating an information society service would require that a member state (such as France) notify the Commission, and the absence of such notification would make the law invalid and unenforceable. But regulation of transport requires no such notification, making the law valid and enforceable.

Uber responded by saying the service at issue, UberPOP, was already discontinued in France.

Denied refund to passenger whose driver extended ride and used passenger phone to give himself a tip

After a passenger forgot her phone in a driver’s vehicle, the driver realized — and drove a lengthy additional route, plus gave himself a large tip. He also used the Uber app to file a complaint against the passenger and, using the passenger’s phone, wrote a fake response.

The passenger complained to Uber, which initially gave her a partial refund but then removed that refund. Uber later suggested that she contact local law enforcement, and only after she did so did Uber refund the charges (ultimately adding a gift card for a future trip).

Female engineers sued, claiming unequal pay and benefits

Three Latina software engineers sued Uber, alleging that they, as women and people of color, were paid less than white male and Asian colleagues. They sought to represent all engineers similarly suited in a class action.

Uber ultimately agreed to settle the suit for $10 million. As part of the settlement, Uber agreed to enhance its systems for compensation and reviews, to regularly report diversity metrics, and to assure that company executives review diversity efforts twice a year.

Holder report offered devastating critique

In the midst of a series of scandals, Uber retained former US Attorney General Eric Holder to review the company’s practices and problems. The report recommended forty-seven changes, including restructuring Uber’s board of directors, restricting alcohol and drug use at company events, and firing then SVP of business Emil Michael .

Reviewing the version of the Holder report available to the public, one compliance consultant described the findings as “one of the most remarkable discussions of a complete workplace culture disaster that has ever been rendered for a multi-billion business.” The consultant continued: “If you changed some of the business and legal language, you might well think you were reading a report on Animal House.” (quote from New Yorker)