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Saturday 7 December 2019

Uber agrees multi-million pound deal to settle claims of driver deception

Uber faced allegations that it duped people into driving for its ride-hailing service (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
Uber faced allegations that it duped people into driving for its ride-hailing service (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Uber Technologies is paying 20 million dollars (£16.2 million) to settle allegations that it duped people into driving for its ride-hailing service.

The company was accused of giving false promises about how much they would earn and how much they would have to pay to finance a car.

The agreement announced with the US Federal Trade Commission covers statements Uber made from late 2013 until 2015 while trying to recruit more drivers to expand its service and remain ahead of its main rival, Lyft.

The FTC alleged that most Uber drivers were earning far less in 18 major US cities than Uber published online.

Regulators also asserted that drivers wound up paying substantially more to lease cars than the company had claimed.

"Many consumers sign up to drive for Uber, but they shouldn't be taken for a ride about their earnings potential or the cost of financing a car through Uber," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Uber said it was pleased to resolve the dispute.

"We've made many improvements to the driver experience over the last year and will continue to focus on ensuring that Uber is the best option for anyone looking to earn money on their own schedule," the San Francisco company said.

Most of the proceeds from Uber's settlement will be paid out to drivers.

Documents filed in San Francisco federal court did not spell out how many people will get a cut of the settlement or what the average payment will be.

Uber has grown into a cultural phenomenon largely by undercutting the prices typically charged by taxis with rides that can be quickly summoned on its smartphone app.

To ensure cars are widely available, Uber has persuaded hundreds of thousands of people in the US to become drivers by dangling the lure of making money at any time that is convenient for them.

The drivers are treated as independent contractors, another contentious issue because the classification excludes them from many of the benefits and protections given to full-time employees.

As part of its recruitment efforts, Uber has floated enticing estimates about how much drivers can make picking up passengers in densely populated cities.

The FTC's case took issue with how Uber presented its earnings estimates.

For instance, on Uber's website from May 2015 through August 2015, chief executive Travis Kalanick boasted the mid-range annual incomes of the service's New York City drivers exceeded 90,000 dollars (£73,000).

And the mid-range annual earnings of its San Francisco drivers topped 74,000 dollars (£60,000), according to the FTC.

The agency's investigation found the mid-range income for the New York drivers was nearly one-third less, at 61,000 dollars (£49,500), and 28% less in San Francisco, at 53,000 dollars (£43,000) , during the year leading up to Mr Kalanick's statement.

In August 2015, Uber revised its website to specify its estimates reflected drivers' "potential" incomes in those two cities.

The FTC says less than 10% of Uber drivers in New York and San Francisco hit the income levels circulated by the company.

Uber also exaggerated the average hourly earnings of its drivers in 16 other US cities and Orange County in California, according to the FTC's complaint.

Regulators also blamed Uber for referring people to car financing programmes that charged more than the company had promised.

The FTC approved the settlement in a 2-1 vote. The dissenting voter, Maureen Ohlhausen, objected because she did not believe Uber's actions harmed consumers.


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