back to article Uber, Lyft and cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy

More allegations have emerged of dodgy tactics on the part of car ride app Uber and rival Lyft – this time relating to so-called "brand ambassadors". Glossy gadget blog The Verge obtained and published the handbook Uber contractors allegedly follow to woo Lyft drivers, under something called Operation SLOG. Whether this is …

  1. TheresaJayne

    I don't get what all the fuss is about, Back when i worked in a Taxi Office when we had a call we would use Microsoft Mappoint to calculate the rate and tell the customer in advance.

    There is 2 types of Licensed Cabs,

    Hackney Carriage - Can be hailed on the street usually has a light on the top which is lit when available to be hailed.

    Licenced Minicab - cannot be hailed but has to be pre-booked (ie phone the cab office/ send an email / use an app to book the cab.) Then the minicab will come and pick you up off the side of the street.

    It has always been this way. it is just with the app it is easier for the customer to book a "usually cheaper" minicab without having to call directory enquiries and get a local number. The Hackney Carriage drivers have no real argument except that because the mini cab firms are now using modern technology to offer the customer a cheaper service they are losing out.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Except that Uber drivers are not Licensed Minicabs either, if I read the article correctly.

      1. big_D Silver badge


        yes, that is the problem. They are a private hire taxi service, that doesn't think it needs a licence, because it uses a smartphone instead of a telephone to do the booking.

        1. Vehlin

          There should be no problem in the UK. Uber sets up as a private hire company and gets a licence. Only uses drivers with a private hire badge who are driving a car with a private hire plate that's been tested by the licencing authority.

          Sadly Uber doesn't want to have to do that, as most of the badged drivers already work for a company who would have th win radio off them if they found them working for Uber.

    2. Richard 23

      What about the unlicensed ones?

      What Uber et al seem to be facilitating is unlicensed, unregulated and uncontrolled drivers.

      I've not done any in-depth research, so genuine questions:

      - who does back ground checks on the drivers - if any?

      - any checks that they have suitable insurance?

      1. ecarlseen

        Re: What about the unlicensed ones?

        Google is your friend:

        1. Throatwobbler Mangrove Silver badge

          Re: What about the unlicensed ones?

          Right - Uber says that there is an insurance policy in place, but there's no guarantee that the driver will actually claim on it. When an Uber driver rearended my friend's car (in which I was a passenger), the Uber driver called up and claimed on his domestic policy.

          1. Michael Jennings

            Re: What about the unlicensed ones?

            As long as the driver claims on some policy and that policy pays, then there really isn't a problem. If the normal situation is that the driver uses his own insurance, but that Uber also has "last resort" insurance for cases where this goes wrong, that seems fine to me. In fact, that seems good to me.

    3. cjhann

      What you say is true for Uber in London. In fact I belive Uber is being granted a licence as a london minicab company. Most of the adverse comments are about it's UberPop service which uses unlicensed drivers and does not operate in London. Since the The Reg is a uk site it's a bit poor that it does not mention this.

  2. Alan Bourke

    That was a good article

    ... was that.

    1. Ilmarinen
      Thumb Down

      Re: That was a good article

      Disagree - I thought it was two pages of waffle without much of a point. Sorry Andrew, but there it is.

      I don't approve of cab licensing (with permits costing BIG sums in the major cities) - it's just a Guild-ish restraint on trade, to advantage of the licensor and the (prety lowly skilled) supplier to the disadvantage of the customer.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge

        Re: That was a good article @Ilmarinen

        Ilmarinen, I think you're unaware of the dire situation in Sweden where unregulated taxi service has lead to a state where you have to actually read the taxi fare sign before actually using the taxi service. If you're using a taxi it means you've agreed to the TOS and therefore you're obliged to pay the 500 € taxi ride to the airport from the city centre. It's highway robbery, but completely legal.

        Now, consider the taxi service you're used at the moment in Finland. What's wrong with it?

        1. Tapeador

          Re: That was a good article @Sandtitz

          Hi Sandtitz, no it's not completely legal; where the parties are not equally sophisticated, then any onerous or unusual terms cannot be incorporated unless they are appropriately brought to the attention of the customer - both under the Spurling v Bradshaw red hand rule (an onerous and unusual term must be brought to the attention of the offeree to be incorporated as a term); and under the snapping up rule, that where someone has not understood the price, and the price is dramatically at variance with what is normal, then the requisite intention to create legal relations does not exist - Hartog v Colin Shields.

          These are common law rules but I have no doubt whatever they are norms of contract law replicated in civil jurisdictions. Europe has been looking after consumers since the days of Rome when dodgy charioteers would have tried it on and I have no doubt that a contract would not subsist in these situations. If a person chooses to pay that is another matter.

  3. LucreLout

    Give me Uber / Lyft

    Over a black cab any day.

    For starters, you can usually find a Lyft/Uber on a night, rather than just jobbing about the square mile and Canary Wharf all day.

    Secondly, they're just so much cheaper than a black cab. I'll happily pay a premium for the stylised cars and licencing, but the cost of black cabs in London is nothing short of extortion brought about by their previously decades long strangle hold on the market.

    It's time for change fellas. You need to be a lot cheaper, and that means you'll have to take less profit or work a lot more hours to achieve it.

    Uber & Lyft aren't even your main business risk - that's got to be Googles self driving cars, if they can be made to work safely in London. The past is over; enjoy the memories, but don't forget that you're very much the ploughmen of your age.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Give me Uber / Lyft

      the cost of black cabs in London is nothing short of extortion brought about by their previously decades long strangle hold on the market.

      Not quite - they also use specialised (expensive) vehicles whereas private hire uses "regular" cars. Having said that, if I *needed* a specialised vehicle I would appreciate it, but the only reason I take a cab is usually because I don't have my own car around for whatever reason. Public transport just doesn't work for me.

      Uber & Lyft aren't even your main business risk - that's got to be Googles self driving cars, if they can be made to work safely in London

      No need to worry about that one yet, it'll still take a while. They have never tested driving in the rain or snow (thankfully they're not on rails or leaves would also be an issue), cannot handle potholes and are apparently extremely dependent on precise mapping of where they will operate, instead of adapting themselves to the situation at hand which even the most mediocre driver has no problems with..

  4. corestore

    What a total hatchet job. I'm not saying you haven't hit on something, but you *totally* miss the point.

    "But in an age of soaring prices across the city, the taxi industry has emerged as a striking example of how exclusive some corners of New York have become.

    On Thursday, at the city’s first medallion auction in over five years, the largest bid for a “mini-fleet” of two medallions exceeded $2.5 million... individual medallions have also attracted ballooning sums. Today, the average market price is more than $1 million. In November 2008, it was less than $550,000."

    Game over, man.

    In 2014, there is STILL no way to get from NYC to JFK without changing trains. They built a shiny new train that goes around the airport - but you have to change trains from a normal commuter or subway train to get to it. Gatwick Express, Heathrow Express, OK. JFK Express? LOL. The huge politically connected taxi business with its million dollar medallions is in such tight cahoots with the city that a direct train service would NEVER be allowed.

    Game over, man.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No illusions about them having clean hands

      These car services are a welcome addition to Los Angeles, the cab pricing has been so predatory here that it is often cheaper to pay a rental car company to drop a car off at your location than to hire a cab. This has more to do with the overly Cozy screw-the-customer-as-hard-as-you-can relationship the cab companies have with the local cities. As a result of the graft, taxes, and fees(=taxes), the guys driving the cars only make money off of tips and ripping off their fares. Taxi fraud here is not up to Roman levels, but is bad enough that locals avoid them like the plague.

      It doesn't seem to bother the operators at all, as there are always a stream of fresh tourists and businessmen they can fleece. The travel industry is an entrenched Cartel here, with the cabs, hotels, car-rentals, and airports all in on the action. The city gets it's cut in the form of bed taxes, Extortionate Medallion Fees, and lobbying money and kick backs. And they have fought hard to maintain that cartel.

      The green line trains run half way across LA straight at LAX, then veer off an overpass at the edge of the Airport and abandon you about 6 blocks from the terminal. There is a free shuttle, but it adds as much as 35 min to the trip, and the drivers are notorious for going on break and taking the bus out of service.

      I don't care what kind of shady cat and mouse game Uber plays with Lyft, as long as that cartel burns to the ground. Then if they can't get their act together, someone will out compete them on a level playing field.

  5. Anomalous Cowshed

    My experience is that these kinds of business models distort the expectations and value judgements of customers and end up costing them more if all factors are taken into consideration. What are relatively high cost luxuries (taxi ride, flight ticket) become commodity, budget items. Instead of occasional high-quality purchases, they become frequent, budget experiences.

    People start expecting things to be cheap, and start consuming these things more; they then balk at the lack of frills (service, comfort, convenience, security, possibly safety). In the end, they become used to saving money, but in many cases the money saved does not offset the stress and extra hassle caused by having to make up for the shortcomings of the service: they think they are saving, but they end up paying extra in terms of time and health. Not to mention the fact that these business models are often skewed by massive subsidies, which means they are being sponsored by taxpayers (take the example of Ryanair).

    I'm not saying that paying £5 for a long-distance flight or train journey within Europe, or paying less for a private individual to pick you up by car, is a bad thing. For many people it is the only way they will be able to afford such services. What I am saying that in the long run, it is a business model that makes people lose out, if you factor in all the aspects. It's just a business model designed to lure people by the appeal of lower prices.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      these business models are often skewed by massive subsidies

      That is a problem.

      My experience is that these kinds of business models distort the expectations and value judgements of customers

      That is not a problem.

      Since Marx wrote his crappy blockbuster with an open end, we have been conditioned to think as "the customer" as a mindless automaton debased by predatory attacks of vast, ancient, cold powers, terribly ancient and vastly superior to him, that lay dreaming when the Earth was young etc. FUCKER SHOULD MAKE HIS CHOICES.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > What I am saying that in the long run, it is a business model that makes people lose out, if you factor in all the aspects. It's just a business model designed to lure people by the appeal of lower prices.

      This, IMHO, is a distortion of the reality for most people. If you have a high disposable income and carry around an iPhone, it might seem that way.

      But the reality for most people is that taxis are way too expensive to use at any time for any reason.

      There is room in the market for a range of options. Cheap and cheerful to deluxe. You pay your money, you take your chance.

      I'm not saying that Lyft or Uber are necessarily the right answer here but daily transport really is a commodity service. It has just never been able to reach a stable state in a lot of places because of extreme over-regulation. A middle ground is surely what is required.

      Like the commenter above though, I think the real disruption will come with self-driving cars which are much closer than most people realise.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One word: disintermediation

    All these approaches seem to me to connect the punter with the driver with less in the middle... Classic disintermediation. And interesting to see Google pushing over a quarter of a billion dollars into Uber.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: One word: disintermediation

      I think the big problem isn't that they are cutting down on the middle man - you don't connect direct with the driver, you connect with Uber, who contact a driver and send him to you.

      They just use a smartphone app to do it automatically, as opposed to you phoning the taxi company and them radioing the taxi to come and get you...

      And that is the problem, if you are plying for hire, you have to have a licence, you have to ensure the vehicle meets certain safety standards and you have to have commercial insurance and you have to pass background checks etc. These are all things that Uber and Lyft seem to argue don't apply to them, because they don't use a telephone to book fares, they use a smartphone...

    2. Tom Slee

      Re: One word: disintermediation

      Compared to waving down a cab and paying the driver with cash, an iPhone, an app, a credit card payment system, and a price set by Uber seems like a lot of intermediaries.

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  8. Phil_Evans

    Then let's mention it...

    'The Hackney Cabs vs Uber dispute was presented as one of the stick-in-the-mud Luddites trying to fight change. And yes, the Hackney carriage end of the market is uniquely privileged by regulatory mandate. But the reality that Uber is simply a cheap taxi company that doesn't bother with the whole "get a licence from the pesky municipal authorities" thing seems to have been overlooked, and should be mentioned.'

    My Desk would give an edit to include 'corrupt, morally-bankrupt, screwed-down-tighter-than-a-snare-drum' characteristics that personify the typical Black Cabbie that I have encountered over the years. I've been Shanghai-d in Sarf London, bollocked for living too close to Heathrow and worse.

    The trouble of with the Cabbies is entitlement. Generally the savvy ex-union shop stewart who laughs down his sleeve at the posh pricks. Armed with 'The knowlege' that nobody has needed since the advent of sat-nav. Squirting as much fuel through the injectors to make the meter work harder, idling to compensate. Who do you know who drives like this?

    That 'license' bears some similarities to 007's in the respect of making a killing whilst barely containing contempt for passengers. It may be the same with Private cabs, but at least it's caveat emptor when you book one of those. The same for Uber as far as I'm concerned. If you're happy to roll with the blows, it's Uber every time for a cheap ride.

    If you want to pay pay a exorbitant tariff whilst getting Rodgered by the cabbie's driving, get a black cab. That sounds pretty disruptive to me.

  9. CommanderGalaxian


    "By contrast, London’s biggest firm Addison Lee provides its own cars, but registers its drivers as self-employed."

    Surely the whole point of being self-employed is that you provide your own tools and equipment to do the job? Anything else and you are a "disguised employee".

    This is the sort of practice that allowed HMRC to bring in the IR35 legislation in the first.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: IR35

      The milk delivery companies do the same. Milkmen are all self-employed, allowing their employer to dodge stuff like sick pay and maternity leave and pensions.

      1. pdlane

        Re: IR35

        Re: "The milk delivery companies do the same."

        You can add FedEX as they do the same in the U.S., plus their drivers have to pay for their uniforms.

        I do not know about other countries, but probably the same where they can get away with screwing their "independent contractor" employees

  10. Lars Silver badge

    I wonder

    Are you properly insured as a passenger with Uber / Lyft. I have seen Americans claim you are not. If you cannot get a cab (any cab) on the street, from the nearest cab station on the street, by phone, by sms and as a pre order then the system is no good. And you should always be able to sit at least 4 passengers (damned Paris) and if there are more of you then you should be able to order a bigger cab. I can understand why London is mentioned but if regulations are medieval where is the surprise. As for Italian cab drivers I bet they will give shit about not being allowed to pick passengers on the street.

  11. corestore

    The taxi cab replaced the horse-drawn cab.

    Uber and Lyft will make the taxi cab as obsolete as the horse-drawn cab, very fast.

    But it's all temporary; taxi cabs have had a very good long run. Uber/Lyft.... give it five or ten years. After that, except for a few tourists, we'll be in self-driving cabs. Powered by Google.

    1. disgruntled yank Silver badge


      "The taxi cab replaced the horse-drawn cab.

      Uber and Lyft will make the taxi cab as obsolete as the horse-drawn cab, very fast."

      By propelling vehicles with iPhones?

    2. pdlane

      we'll be in self-driving cabs.

      Past tense...... Self-driving cabs are already here..... ZIP cars has been around for years...

      Drive yourself and have reserved parking spaces all over the city. ZIP cars have GPS to guide you to your destination when you are not familiar with the area. You pay a fixed rate for usage by the hour, day or week along with an annual or monthly nominal subscription fee.

      I do not know about London, but in the Washington DC area ZIP cars are ubiquitous to the point where even the U.S. government has recently contracted with ZIP cars for use by government employees.

  12. smartypants

    Lipstick on a pig what some of these web services are.

    I'm thinking of 'Just Eat', which is currently spunking gazillions in London. The take-aways that show the label seem to be from the 'cheerful' end of the market (to put it kindly) - tired old italian takeaways, sticky-carpeted chinese takeaways etc...

    I guess that's the formula. Here too. Take a relatively unappealing proposition (dodgy bloke using his mum's car without insurance to raise a bit of cash on the side), coat it with liberal web 2.0 lipstick, and watch the iMiddleClasses whip themselves into a frenzy of consumption.

    It'll probably succeed!

    1. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward

      Re: Lipstick on a pig

      Industries with high, artificial barriers to entry (like 1 M $ medallions) will eventually see their lunch eaten by Web 3.0. It is really just a matter of time.

      FFS, hotels are still regulated by 19th and 20th century regulations, developed when bedbugs, rats, cockroaches and dirty water were the normal Traveler's Inn experience. Taxi regulations also sprung from horse and buggy days. They still refer to taxi cabs as "hackney carriages".

      Once these regulations had improved services and established a collective service expectation norm, they should have been binned. Instead, they were used to create private and public fiefdoms that fleeced the public from both ends. Established, political entrepreneurs and players could always cash in. Newer, less-connected business entrepreneurs need not apply. In other words, do not pass go, do not collect 200 $. Consumers could go f*k themselves.

      But today, such services can be regulated by their own users with reputation scoring and social media / sharing platforms. Suppliers then either listen to the crowd or disappear. Self-enforcement HAS GOT TO BE more effective than any nanny or sugar daddy (non) enforcement. You can't bribe the entire internet.

      Eventually we won't need no stinking red tape or gold medaillons, just a smartphone.

      This is as it should be. Tech should be creating new jobs, not protecting the old ones it will eventually destroy. That certainly didn't happen with manufacturing. I can't see it happening with services either.

      The "sharing economy" is just another example of technology progressively driving out inefficiences from the service supply chain. When customers and suppliers can instantly exchange information (without gatekeepers) no one maintains a monopoly for very long.

      So, good news for consumers with less disposable income (i.e, most of us). But very bad news for those coddled, regulated service industries that bar competition and restrict supply. There will be apps for you, just wait.

      Economies can not simultaneously maintain artificially high pricing, drive down people's wages, slash jobs by the thousands and increase regulatory burdens without some backlash. This is because people will eventually figure it out and shop for alternatives which other people will provide.

      So hello to Uber, Easyjet, Ryanair, AirBnB and all the other companies that spot these opportunities and seize them with both hands.

      And IMHO, it is about bloody time.

      The game is indeed over, time for a new one to begin.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The self-employed economy

    With firms not recruiting into permanent, stable, guaranteed income jobs, and instead treating 'employees' as second rate, not worthy of any thing but zero hours contracts, zero job security, low wage rises, and no affinity or care for it's workforce, what the hell else did you expect.

    People have been treated so long as 'commodities' (just look at the terms used - 'human resources', 'down-scaling', 'off-shoring'), that I can understand why they are now looking at the relationships in the work place, and becoming every more self-centered, self-motivated, and treating themselves as employers do - as casual labour, working for themselves, with no guarantee of income except that which the are able to generate themselves.

    At the same time, the working poor are looking for ever more inventive ways of making their diminishing wages stretch even further, in an economy that sees the rich get richer, and the workers get poorer.

    So all Uber and Lyft have done is bring these two groups together - working poor meet the self-employed working in an unregulated, black-market, cash economy.

    If people were paid a decent wage, had proper jobs, and worked in an economy supporting such 'arcane' ideas, then this short cut, cost saving, below par solution would not need to exist.

  14. Andrew Moore

    Not to be left out...

    I believe Hailo are starting to introduce questionable practices also. Apparently one of the things that Hailo hates is for taxis to switch off their app on a Saturday night when there is lots of on-street business so Hailo is missing out on their cut on the most lucrative night of the week.

    1. Guus Leeuw

      Re: Not to be left out...

      Dear Sir,

      Hailo can hate it all they want, but they can't actually do anything about.

      They can maybe make the taxi driver keep the app switched on and be logged in. Hailo cannot force the taxi driver to accept jobs.

      "Ok, you didn't accept my last 5 jobs I sent you... So you're out of Hailo..." Doesn't sound like a good idea for Hailo.

      Hailo is a free-for-all type service: They correctly use a free app for the passenger. They correctly use percentage-of-the-fare to get money from the drivers who use their systems. Nobody is obliged anybody anything. Nobody is out anything either...

      It will be hard for Hailo to start demanding things.

      Driver: "You think I should switch on my app / be logged in in the weekends? OK, you have to provide me with 10 jobs each night then"

      Hailo: "In that case you need to pay a subscription fee."

      Driver: "In which case you need to also guarantee a minimum amount of fare, so that I can be reasonably assured that I can pay my subscription fee."

      The End...

      Hailo can start hiring taxi drivers directly... In which case they become a private hire firm, and will have to abide by local arcane-ish regulations no matter where they operate...

      Or, as happens at least in Dublin on Saturday&Sunday morning around 04:00AM: You get no response from Hailo... It sucks as there are no cars to hail on the street either... But then again: they didn't guarantee me a car for everytime I need one. No, Hailo guarantees nothing, promises to contact a number of close-by cars, but even then, it is up to the driver to accept / refuse the job... So I can be all upset about not being able to Hailo a car, but hey... The app / Hailo does what it says on the tin.

      If Hailo would start using unlicensed drivers, I would immediately stop using it. Simply because a rape/kidnapping/murder by a "cab" driver hasn't happened in God knows how many years, doesn't make it so that it never happened... The arcane-ish rules about needing a license to taxi driver are there for good reasons, as fellow commentard pointed out: Somebody always pays the price... It's just so sad if that were a person ending up dead...

      And do they not warn about dodgy minicab drivers? Don't get in a car where you can't know / trust a person... Sure, Uber uses rating systems... Never had a bad rating from anybody... Sure some rides weren't rated, but yeah feck how could they... Poor unfortunate gobshite ended up dead before rating the driver...


  15. Joe Gurman

    A US perspective

    ....or at least a US East Coast one. I don't often have the occasion to to take cabs, but when I do, I find that they often don't arrive when booked by phone (or if they do, 20 to 30 minutes later than the booked time); that they are rarely available for being flagged in large cities when the weather is poor (good old supply and demand, right?); and they are often driven by people who speak English poorly, if at all, even if they do know their way around a GPS device. The vehicles, at least in New York City, also appear to "feature" obnoxious, large video screens a few inches from the customer's face advertising I don't know what all, at high volume. (That's where being able to communicate with the driver that you;d like the damn thing turned off entirely is a help.)

    Contrast this with my experience to date with Uber, in NYC and Boston: the car, whether a black car or UberX (ordinary vehicle, usually a hybrid) arrives on time, I know where the car is from the moment of booking, the driver knows in advance what his/her tip will be (tipping being a very big deal in the US), and so far, 2 for 2 on being able to communicate verbally with the driver – not that Uber rides have obnoxious video ads in them, either. (I'm guessing the last is due to recent immigrants' being less able to navigate the odd requirements from establishing themselves as independent operators, vs. receiving help from other members of the same community who have established taxi businesses.) And finally, the unholy taxi monopolies (a small number of companies, who sit on municipal taxi regulation boards as well as providing the "service") resist requiring the acceptance of credit cards for taxi service.

    Given all of the above, in this area of this country at least, yes, Uber delivers a distinctly superior product for only a small premium in price. That said, the competition between them and Lyft appears, in some markets, to be of the Wild West variety.

    1. Throatwobbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: A US perspective

      "I'm guessing the last is due to recent immigrants' being less able to navigate the odd requirements from establishing themselves as independent operators"

      You're having a giraffe, ain't ya? NYC cabbies are all already independent operators (not employees) and Uber/Lyft wouldn't survive if recent immigrants weren't signing providing the labour - just as they have for the last three decades of taxi driving.

  16. ecarlseen

    The theoretical ignores the reality

    Now I've never taken a black cab in London and so I can't say whether Uber will be better or worse than that particular experience, but...

    In the US, Uber beats an "old-school" cab hands-down, all day, every day. It's not even close. It is definitely more expensive ($15 minimums in most markets). But the old-school "regulated" and "licensed" cab companies over here suck ass in every way imaginable. They're rarely clean, drivers can be rude, and if you call one it might or might not show up sometime in the next hour or two. You have no idea; you just wait and wait and wait. With Uber, you can track your driver incoming via GPS and they rarely take more than 5 minutes (again, in my market) to show up. The cars are always clean, the drivers are very seldom anything other than perfectly polite (you're asked to rate them in your app), the tip is included in the price, and the transaction is cashless without the insane credit card fees (up to $5 in some markets) that old-school, "regulated" and "licensed" cab companies charge.

    So maybe there aren't as many government panjandrums fretting over and micromanaging every aspect of Uber or Lyft, but people seem to strongly prefer them. The reason people strongly prefer them is that they are better in pretty much every way than the services that government panjandrums fret over and micromanage. Otherwise, why not just call an old-fashioned cab company? Nobody's forcing you one way or the other...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Star ratings for drivers?

    The article says unreliable drivers can't be fired, and reliable ones can't be rewarded. Don't the customers have a role to play here? If I hail a "cab" with one of these companies and it tells me the driver will be here in 10 minutes, but it takes 45, his car stinks and he looks like a serial killer on the hunt for his next victim, don't I have a way of warning future customers about him? Likewise if I had a perfect experience with a driver who was helpful in suggesting a place to eat and giving me a coupon he happened to have that will save me money going somewhere I had already been planning to go, I should have a way of letting future customers know that as well.

    So ideally when I hire my ride rather than finding the closest driver, I say "the closest driver with at least four stars and 20 trips" and pay a bit more to get the good one, where people who just whoever is closest pay a bit less for the serial killer dude.

    Maybe they already do this, and the article is just not very accurate? I haven't ever used any of these services, so I don't know, but I may consider it in the future but only if I have some control over who I might get.

  18. Hollerith 1

    I have to stick to black cabs

    Black cabs are my only choice when I am traveling with my disabled partner. I need a taxi that will be able to load and safely transport someone in a wheelchair. The fact that this functionality comes with every back cab I've ever hailed is the one that cements my loyalty. If black cabs disappear, we will need to call the special disabled bus, which doesn't, to my knowledge, pick up from restaurants in town late at night and take you straight home.

    1. LucreLout

      Re: I have to stick to black cabs

      "If black cabs disappear, we will need to call the special disabled bus, which doesn't, to my knowledge, pick up from restaurants in town late at night and take you straight home."

      While I don't see that as a sufficiently good reason to allow cabbies to hold everyone else to randsom, I would suggest that economics dictates their absence would lead to an unfilled demand, meaning someone would be along sooner rather than later to specialise in such jobs by purchasing an appropriate vehicle for the task - possibly a TX formerly driven by a cabbie.

      1. J-Wick

        Re: I have to stick to black cabs

        I think that cabbies do have a stranglehold on the market, but I also think that there are going to be some things that will never be economical to provide and so will never be handled by the free market. Cabs should transport disabled passengers - and shouldn't just leave a passenger in the lurch if they show up and find that they are in a wheelchair. That's the sort of thing that needs regulation, at least in my mind.

        I don't disagree that we have too much regulation now, but no regulation isn't much better.

  19. DrXym

    The ratings aren't much use

    I'm sure they say if the driver turned up on time. They're not going to say whether the driver has a previous conviction for rape or if the car failed its MOT or has no insurance. Unless Uber / Lyft are required to comply with the regulations for licencing, knowledge, vehicle safety and criminal background checks that other taxi companies do, I think it right to question their business model.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Disappointing again. :(

    Orlowski, it is not clear to me what your gripe with Ms. Kroes is, and you are certainly not making it easy to find out: lots of snarky comments, but you have not presented any actual evidence to support any allegations you may or may not have made. That bothers me greatly.

    Aside from this, nearly everything that you have written about RYR's and EZY's business models is wrong. This is a huge subject in itself and to write about it for an audience outside the aviation / mass transport domains would be beyond my ability and interest, and in any case it's only incidental to the point you were trying to make.

    That point being, if I understood well, that these companies "are not technology companies" (in a Web 2.0 sort of sense, I imagine you mean). Now, I know the media paint them as such, and that their growth strategy is being played from the same scoresheet as every other tech start-up out there, while at the same time Web 2.0 is tightly woven into almost every aspect of their business, from what I can see (marketing, customer relations, logistics, ...) But, have they defined themselves as a tech startup? Just because they let journos talk refer to them as such it doesn't mean that's what they are.

    And even if they were, what difference would that make? You claim that being a "tech" start-up gets you viewed favourably by regulators, but that's just a claim that you (and none else?) have made and haven't offered any proof whatsoever for, so sadly, as is often the case with your articles, you manage to get an interesting subject worthy of analysis and end up making a completely vacuous point based on false (or at least unattested) premises and flawed reasoning.

  21. ecofeco Silver badge

    It's called piecework

    It's called "piecework" which is just another way to exploit the "employees".

    Nobody has ever made a decent living from doing piecework jobs. (sure there are exceptions. but that's ALL they are, exceptions.)

    You're better off digging ditches for a paycheck.

    1. MarcG

      Re: It's called piecework

      Here in the United States, this isn't being discussed AT ALL. The focus remains on rude comments coming from the Uber leadership. Never the exploitation of the workers, which is immense.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What do you mean?

    Whether this is legal or not – it surely is


  23. ppawel

    What exactly are they "disrupting"?

    Here in Cracow, Poland we have at least two taxi companies with smartphone apps and fare prices often make me wonder how do drivers live from their jobs. They are a proper taxi company, drivers are not perfect every time but do you really expect someone in a business suit every time when you go with the cheapest possible taxi company in the city?

    I've been using those two companies for over a year, several fares a month and I have maybe one or two complaints. I am sure that if I had complained about a driver then it would have much more weight than some random star rating on the internets.

    Now, what more do you want from a cheap taxi service? Why does it need to be startup-web-2.0-hipster enabled? Do you expect to find a best friend in a taxi or something?

    I like clever startup ideas as much as anyone but Uber/Lyft seem to have only gimmicks going on like cool names, short domain names and large format graphics on their web pages...

    If you say that cabs are expensive in your area then perhaps what you need is a good old-fashioned businessman who can build a real competitive business from scratch, not a virtual one.

  24. TheDillinquent

    When did 'disrupive' become a good thing?

    After I left school I think, as it is a word that used to frequently appear on my reports and was considered a bad thing.

  25. Troutdog

    Some Observations

    This is an interesting discussion. I'd like to add a couple of thoughts:

    My own experience with Uber has been very positive. I do not use it exclusively, but it is a nice option when you need a ride and aren't close to a hotel or airport (where all the taxis are).

    One point that has not been discussed (or I overlooked it): no cash money changes hands in an Uber transaction. This is actually quite a nice feature. It enhances security for both the rider and driver. In order to use Uber, you need to have a credit card, which also means there is a "paper" trail for every rider. (I suppose some would view that as a negative).

    I recently spoke with an Uber driver in DC. He told me that previously he had been a taxi driver, but he moved to Uber because of safety concerns. He said that when he had a fare to certain parts of the city, it was quite common for the rider to bolt without paying. He also stated that there was virtually no animosity in that city between taxi drivers and uber drivers. This is only one data point, but it was interesting. I suspect the people that are really upset about Uber (and Lyft) are actually the medallion holders - and not the drivers.

  26. MarcG

    I'm honestly shocked to see this article. From what I've seen, The Reg is the ONLY journal telling the real truth about Uber.

    The other media focus on comments by the CEO or this rudeness towards women or the comment made by the Uber exec about slandering journalists. All of those things, and similar issues have importance but at the end of the day they are all distractions from the real Uber story that The Reg is covering here.


    And in fact, it is even worse. I would like to see The Reg cover the predatory auto loans Uber is pushing on to immigrant drivers with no credit history. Women in men I have personally spoken with are paying $1,000/month for a Toyota Prius or Camry. Why isn't that being reported on?????

  27. cjhann

    Uber offer a high quality service in London

    Lots of these posts miss the point about Uber: The *service* the customer receives is often *better* than a taxi or traditional private hire. It's not just about price. In london it is cheaper than a black taxi but about the same as a traditional minicab (aka Private Hire vehicle). But the service is better:

    1) Customer knows where the driver is - no need to ring firm to ask "Where is my taxi?" Or stand outside in the rain looking for him.

    2) Always accept credit cards - no need to stop at ATM (or pay large card handling fees)

    3) No need to worry about being over charged. The price is computed by Uber not the driver or a meter he owns. If the driver takes a circular route Uber will generally give a refund. No need to argue with driver about the price!

    4) The itemised billing is great for claming expenses.


    In london Uber only uses licensed private hire or taxi drivers (I know this is not the case elsewhere). Here it is basically just another cab firm. But one that tracks the position of the driver and makes it easy for the customer to share who the driver is with a friend.

    6) Nearly always a driver is available. No need to ring muliple firms. The reason for the high availability is:

    6.1) that most firms charge the driver between £100-200 per week for equipment and finding them work. Uber charges 20% with no upfront weekly fee. So the driver bares less of the risk and can have another job if he wishes.

    6.2) Most firms require the driver to work fixed hours. Uber gives the driver freedom to work when he wants.

    6.3) Uber does not require the driver to carry cash. So he is less likely to be robbed.

    6.4) As in point (3) no need for the driver to argue with the customer about price or worry about customer running off without paying.

    So most private hire drivers *like* Uber.

    7) The Uber rating system makes it very easy to complain about a bad driver. It's less stressful than ringing up and complaining. When I only gave a driver 2 stars Uber read my comment and refunded my fare.

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