Recruited drivers with exaggerated earnings claims

The Federal Trade Commission flagged Uber exaggerating the yearly and hourly income drivers could make in certain cities. For example, Uber claimed on its site that uberX drivers’ annual median income was more than $90,000 in New York and more than $74,000 in San Francisco — but the FTC found that the actual medians were $61,000 and $53,000 respectively, and that less than 10 percent of all drivers in those cities earned the amounts Uber touted.

The FTC also alleged that Uber made false hourly earnings claims in job listings on Craigslist and elsewhere. In eighteen different cities where Uber advertised hourly earnings on Craigslist, fewer than 30% of drivers earned the promised amount. In some cities, as few as 10% of drivers earned the promised amount. Details in the FTC’s complaint.

Uber paid $20 million to settle these claims (along with claims about vehicle financing terms). The funds were used to provide refunds to affected drivers.

Refused to honor taxi strike protesting Trump travel ban

When taxi drivers at JFK Airport went on strike to protest President Trump’s travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries, Uber continued service. While Uber claimed that continued service would assist passengers in completing their journeys, critics saw Uber profiteering and failing to honor an important principle.

Criticism was sharpened because Uber CEO Travis Kalanick at the time served as a strategic advisor to Trump, suggesting that he supported the travel ban or Trump’s policies more generally. (Kalanick later stepped down from that advisory role.)

“Upfront pricing” disputes

Uber “upfront pricing” nets out in Uber’s favor, increasing effective fees charged to drivers.  Details from Rideshare Guy.

In screenshots and details at Quartz, drivers show some specifics. For example, on one ride, the passenger paid $31.02, yet Uber told the driver that the passenger’s fare was $26.96, which led to a net payment to the driver of $17.05 (net of Uber’s fee, tax, and other charges). In other examples, Uber charged the passenger $41.86 but told the driver the fare was $34.85; and $25.65 versus $22.03. In each of these examples, Uber’s statement to the driver about the passenger’s “fare” appears to have been affirmatively false, as the true fare was more.

Underpaid New York drivers

By retaining commissions 2.6% beyond the amount specified in the applicable contract, Uber underpaid drivers in New York.  Jim Conigliaro, founder of the Independent Drivers’ Guild, called Uber’s actions “theft.”  Engadget reported that the amount averaged $900 per driver, yielding a total overcharge of more than $40 million.

2015 contract revisions indicate that Uber knew it was wrongly taking commission on gross fares, thereby overcharging drivers, though the company denied that allegation.

Charged nonexistent “Airport Fee Toll” for journeys to SFO

Through October 2014, Uber charged passengers a $4.00 “Airport Fee Toll” to travel to San Francisco International Airport, although there was no such fee charged by the airport, city, or anyone else.  The city reported that some drivers (though by all indications not many) had permission to operate commercially at SFO, but that they paid $3.85 at most in fees to SFO. Uber always charged more—indeed, as much as $8 if two passengers shared an UberPool vehicle to SFO.

Charged nonexistent “Logan Massport Surcharge & Toll”

In 2013-2014, Uber charged a nonexistent $8.75 “Logan Massport Surcharge & Toll” for rides to or from Boston’s Logan airport.  Uber’s web site said was to “cover… Massport fees and other costs related to airport trips.”  But neither Massport nor Logan airport charged any such fees.  Furthermore, Uber charged an “East Boston Toll” of $5.25, but the largest toll any UberX driver was actually obliged to pay was $3.50.  Uber reimbursed drivers for the actual toll and retained the remainder.

Cullinane et al v. Uber Technologies, Inc. No. 1:14-cv-14750-DPW. Massachusetts District Court. December 30, 2014.  Complaint.  Supreme Court briefing as to Uber’s motion to compel arbitration and avoid litigation (also restating and summarizing merits of the case).