|Privately held company|
|Founder||Travis Kalanick, Garrett Camp|
|Headquarters||San Francisco, California, United States|
|Travis Kalanick (CEO)|
|Services||Taxi, vehicles for hire|
Uber is an American international company headquartered in San Francisco, California. It develops, markets and operates a mobile-app-based transportation network also called Uber. The Uber app allows consumers to submit a trip request, which is routed to crowd-sourced taxi drivers. As of March 26, 2015, the service was available in 55 countries and more than 200 cities worldwide. Since Uber's launch, several other companies have emulated its business model, a trend that has come to be referred to as "Uberification".
Uber was founded as "UberCab" by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp in 2009 and the app was released the following June. It raised $49 million in venture funds by 2011. Beginning in 2012, Uber expanded internationally. In 2014, it experimented with carpooling features and made other updates. It continuously raised additional funding, reaching $2.8 billion in total funding by 2015. Many governments and taxi companies have protested against Uber, alleging that its use of unlicensed, crowd-sourced drivers was unsafe or illegal.
- 1 History
- 2 Uber app software and services
- 3 Regulatory opposition
- 4 Criticism and controversies
- 5 Research
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The idea for Uber came to Travis Kalanick when he was trying to find a cab to attend a 2008 LeWeb conference in Paris, France but he could not find one. Kalanick cites "Paris as the inspiration for Uber".  Uber was founded as "UberCab" by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp in 2009. The service was launched in San Francisco in June 2010, with Ryan Graves appointed as CEO. Graves later stepped down from that role to become VP of Operations and was replaced by Kalanick. Uber's mobile app for iPhones and Android phones was launched in San Francisco in 2010.
The company received venture funding in late 2010 from First Round Capital and a group of super angel investors in Silicon Valley that included Chris Sacca. In early 2011, Uber raised more than US$11.5 million in Series A funding led by Benchmark Capital. In late 2011, Uber raised an additional $32 million in funding from several investors, including Goldman Sachs, Menlo Ventures, and Bezos Expeditions, bringing its total funding to $49.5 million.
The Wall Street Journal reported on December 5, 2014, that Uber has raised US$1.2 billion from a number of investors, including sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority, New Enterprise Associates, and hedge funds Valiant Capital Partners and Lone Pine Capital. The successful investors, the names of which Uber did not disclose, participated in a competitive bidding process that lasted several weeks, and their investments meant that Uber was worth US$41 billion. The article only referred to "people familiar with the matter" in regard to the sources of its information.
On December 12, 2014, TechCrunch reported that the Chinese search engine Baidu, the mainland's largest, is expected to make a significant investment in Uber. The deal, the details of which were not shared with the media, was confirmed on December 17, 2014, following a Beijing meeting involving Kalanick and Baidu chief executive and chairman Robin Lee, who made a commitment to connect the search engine's map and mobile-search features with Uber’s app. At the time of the arrangement, Uber existed in eight Chinese mainland cities. Kalanick told the media afterward of an absence of "pressing regulatory issues" for Uber in China.
Paris was the first city outside of the U.S. where Uber's service began operating, in December 2011 prior to the international LeWeb Internet conference. The company expanded to Canada in March 2012. In July 2012, the company launched its app in London and that November it was introduced in Australia following a six-week test period. Sydney was Uber's first launch in the Asia Pacific region and the band Art vs. Science participated in an early promotion.
The soft launch of Uber in Singapore began in January 2013 after Kalanick expressed an intention to expand into Asia in an early 2012 interview. Uber's service was launched in August 2013 in the South Korean capital city of Seoul. In accordance with standard practice, Uber Seoul started as a test phase.
Uber's launch in Bangalore on August 29, 2014, was the company's first day of operation in India. Indian musicians Raghu Dixit and Vasundhara Das participated in the promotion for the launch of the UberX service. On September 4, 2013, Uber announced its first sports deal. The company held a promotion with the NFL Players Association to promote safe rides for NFL players.
Consumers in Johannesburg, South Africa, were able to use Uber after it was launched in September 2013. Uber was then started in Cape Town on October 10, 2013, after a six-week "testing phase".
Following a soft launch of the Uber app in the Sanlitun shopping district in March 2014, an official launch was held in Beijing, China, in mid-July 2014. The company's service operates in China’s four largest cities.
In July 2014 Uber's announced a nationwide rollout of UberX in India. In addition to a Bangalore presence, Uber's inaugural Indian location that was publicized in August 2013, drivers in Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Mumbai and Pune made UberX available to users in those cities.
Although the Metropolitan Government of Seoul officially stated in mid-2014 that it would seek to ban Uber from operating in its jurisdiction, while also developing its own Uber-like app for registered taxis to be launched in December 2014, Uber proceeded to introduce its UberX service in the city at the end of August 2014. According to the Wall Street Journal, UberX uses a "for-pay rideshare scheme" and "trips cost less than the same journey in an ordinary taxi". At the time of the launch, an Uber representative based in Seoul said that a charge will not apply to rides in Seoul until further notice.
Drivers in Warsaw began using the Uber app on August 18, 2014. A taxi license or a taximeter are not requirements for drivers, and all payments are made through the mobile app. Swathy Prithivi, coordinator of Uber's entry into new markets, said to Polish media, “Our premise is to be the cheapest. We will even be cheaper than the most popular Warsaw carriers."
The service was launched in Montreal in October 2014. The city's mayor Denis Coderre publicly said, "Right now if they don't respect the rules, yes it's illegal, of course it's illegal". At the time of the launch, 100 Montreal drivers had signed with Uber, while Coderre engaged in talks with Quebec's transportation minister, Robert Poëti.
The service was introduced in Denmark in November 2014, but only the Uber Black was available in the capital city of Copenhagen, while UberPOP was scheduled to be added at a later stage. By November 20, the Danish transport authority, the national body, had filed a police complaint against Uber. On November 28, 2014, Thailand's Department of Land Transport declared Uber's continued operation within Thailand illegal.
Uber launched its service in Nairobi, Kenya, on January 21, 2015. Nairobi was Uber's first city in Kenya, as well as the East African region. On the same day as the Nairobi launch, Uber raised US$1.6 billion in convertible debt from wealth management clients of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
UberPop and UberPool in Paris and New York
In the first half of 2014, the UberPop version of the app was launched in Paris, France, whereby users are linked to drivers without professional taxi or chauffeur licenses, while Uber covers supplemental insurance—UberPop was expanded to other European cities over the course of the year. On June 6, 2014, Uber announced US$1.2 billion in funding during its latest round. The round valued Uber at around $17 billion pre-money.
The UberPool service was then introduced to the Parisian market in November 2014, a month after a French court deemed the company's UberPop service to be illegal—Uber claimed that UberPool was the next iteration of the UberPop concept. Uber's Western Europe chief told reporters at the time that it was "very confident" about overturning the court decision. At the start of February 2015, the UberPool service was still operational in Paris, France, despite the regulatory opposition in that country.
Uber announced on December 2, 2014, that the UberPool concept would be rolled out the following week in New York, U.S. The Uber blog announcement offered riders the possibility of reducing their journey costs by 20 to 50 percent, explaining: "On any given day, the vast majority of UberX trips in NYC have a 'lookalike' trip—a trip that starts near, ends near, and is happening around the same time as another trip".
Uber app software and services
In 2014, the company experimented with online food orders, pilot testing uberFRESH in Santa Monica, California. In April 2014, Uber announced a courier package delivery service called Uber Rush, with pickup from anywhere in Manhattan. While Rush only offers delivery, the Uber Essentials or Corner Store service, starting testing in Washington D.C. in August 2014, allows online ordering from a list of about 100 items. In April 2012, Uber launched the Uber Garage initiative, a project to experiment with other ideas for urban transportation services. The first project from Uber Garage was to give Uber users the option to hire a regular taxi driver, or a crowd-sourced Uber driver.
UberPool is a new service that Uber started testing in San Francisco that groups two users (who can bring 1 guest each) who have similar destinations, and allow them to share a car. The service has been expanded to many other cities including New York.
The startup announced a new carpooling service called UberPool at the start of August 2014, when it had already started a beta testing phase in San Francisco Bay Area. UberPool matches riders with another rider who is traveling in the same direction—the app will tell you the first name of the other rider and who is getting picked up first. If a match cannot be found, riders are offered a discount on a regular Uber trip.
In July 2012, in honor of National Ice Cream Month, Uber launched an "Uber Ice Cream" program in the U.S. so that users in seven cities could summon an ice cream truck for on-demand delivery, while purchases were billed to users' accounts.
Short-term promotions in the second half of 2013 included: the September hire of ice-cream trucks to deliver ice cream; rides in the DeLorean DMC-12 car, from the Back to the Future film franchise, that were also launched in September; an October National Cat Day promotion, for which Uber drivers delivered kittens; and a Christmas-tree delivery service.
In March 2015, Uber offered luxury car-rental service in collaboration with Dream Drive in Singapore until 20 May 2015.
Pricing and payments
Uber's pricing is similar to metered taxis, although all hiring and payment is handled exclusively through Uber and not with the driver personally. In some cities, if the Uber car is travelling at a speed greater than 11 mph (18 km/h), the price is calculated on a distance basis, otherwise, the price is calculated on a time basis. At the end of a ride, the complete fare (which does not include a gratuity—Uber's exact wording is "No Need to Tip") is automatically billed to the customer's credit card. Uber has said its prices are the premium that the customers pay for a cab service that is not only reliable, but also punctual and comfortable.
Uber uses an automated algorithm to increase prices to "surge price" levels, responding rapidly to changes of supply and demand in the market, and to attract more drivers during times of increased rider demand, but also to reduce demand. Customers receive notice when making an Uber reservation that prices have increased. The company applied for a U.S. patent on surge pricing in 2013.
The practice has often caused passengers to become upset and invited criticism when it has happened as a result of holidays, inclement weather, or natural disasters. During New Year's Eve 2011, prices were as high as seven times normal rates, causing outrage. During the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis, Uber implemented surge pricing, resulting in fares of up to four times normal charges; while it defended the surge pricing at first, it later apologized and refunded the surcharges. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has responded to criticism by saying: "...because this is so new, it's going to take some time for folks to accept it. There's 70 years of conditioning around the fixed price of taxis."
Uber faces competition from lower-cost real-time ridesharing startups such as Lyft, Sidecar, and Haxi. To compete at lower price levels, Uber has introduced UberTaxi (partnerships with local taxi commissions) and UberX (non-luxury cars such as Toyota Prius hybrids). This move has led to dissatisfaction among existing Uber limo drivers who have seen their earnings decrease.
In 2011 Marc Andreessen expressed interest in investing in Uber. He told CNET, "Uber is software eats taxis. [...] It's a killer experience. You watch the car on the map on your phone as it makes its way to you." The same year, the New York Times called Uber "clever but costly", noting the cars are "particularly nice by livery standards" and pickup times were slow compared with traditional New York City taxis and black cars.
- New South Wales
On April 30, 2014, Transport for New South Wales, the government authority regarding transportation in New South Wales, Australia, responded to the introduction of ridesharing function of Uber and clarified that "if a New South Wales driver is taking paying members of the public as passengers, the driver and the vehicle must operate in accordance with the Passenger Transport Act" and "Under the act, such services must be provided in a licensed taxi or hire car, by an appropriately accredited driver, authorised by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS)." In December 2014, the New South Wales government confirmed that they had conducted an unannounced search of the company's Sydney offices in April of that year for law enforcement purposes.
Queensland premier Campbell Newman said, "We are a deregulation-minded government" at the end of May 2014, in regard to the Queensland government's unwillingness to regulate Uber. The government sent a cease and desist letter to the company during the same month. Transport Minister Scott Emerson subsequently said that he "welcomed innovation in transport technologies", but Uber "must meet the relevant transport legislation". The Taxi Council Queensland (TCQ) supported the state government's stance, while Jordan Condo, Uber's head of public policy for the Asia Pacific region, described the state's regulations as "outdated".
By mid-November 2014, TCQ announced an anti-Uber media campaign, in which it warns Uber passengers that they are putting their lives at risk. In regard to the campaign's slogan, "Don't risk your life—Rideshare apps are unlawful, unsafe and uninsured," TCQ chief executive Benjamin Wash said in a public statement: "Queensland taxi drivers undergo daily criminal checks, but rideshare drivers don't. You simply don't know who is behind the wheel." Uber responded with information about its insurance policy, including a $US5 million contingency liability insurance cover and "each partner driver's own full insurance policies". The TCQ also launched an online parliamentary petition to ensure that Uber remains illegal in Queensland, while Emerson said that, since August, the government had issued "more than [A]$170,000 in fines to 62 [Uber] drivers".
On May 6, 2014, the Taxi Service Commission in Victoria, Australia, issued a number of infringement notices to Uber drivers with a fine of A$1,723, after a public warning discouraging people to use ridesharing applications like UberX. State officers said that they will review the state's Transport Act, while Uber said it will reimburse drivers.
Uber was banned in Brussels, whereby the company will be fined €10,000 (US$13,500) if it offers fares to drivers who are not in possession of a taxi license. Bruxelles-Mobilite, the city's federal region administration responsible for infrastructure and traffic, impounded 13 cars aligned with Uber after March 2014 and a spokesperson for the body described the service as "illegal" in June 2014. The spokesperson also said in a public statement that Bruxelles-Mobilite was generally addressing the issue of illegal taxi drivers in a sector that was difficult to regulate. Although already banned in the Belgian capital of Brussels, the company advertised for a Brussels-based "General Manager" on the LinkedIn website in June 2014. The advertisement stated that the role was "by far the most demanding position Uber has to offer."
- British Columbia
A September 2012 article in Business in Vancouver reported a dispute with local regulators. On November 22, 2012, Uber announced it was exiting the "Secret Uber" stage in Vancouver and raising its rates to C$75 per hour to comply with provincial regulations. As of December, Uber had not applied for a license from the city.
On December 5, 2012, officials at the City of Toronto charged Uber with "25 municipal licensing offences, including operation of an unlicensed taxi brokerage and unlicensed limo service". City officials said they had advised the company to comply with local regulations. Rival taxi dispatch apps had obtained licenses.
In December 2014, Drew Caldwell, Manitoba's Minister of Municipal Government publicly announced that without a taxicab license, anyone driving in Manitoba for Uber would be doing so illegally (for violating Manitoba’s Taxicab Act) and could face fines of up to $1,000 per offence.
In early 2015 two Uber X drivers in the City of Montreal were fined and had their cars seized for using personal cars to give lifts to others for a fee without being licensed for commercial driving. Quebec Transport Minister Robert Poëti declared Uber illegal and warned that Uber's drivers risk a fine and confiscation of their cars. He said that Uber drivers offer rides at their own risk.
After only the Uber Black service was launched in Copenhagen in November 2014, the national transport authority filed a police complaint, as it suspected Uber of operating illegally in Denmark. A spokesperson for the body told reporters that Uber had not made contact prior to the launch, and "we don't think their [Uber] services are in line with the law." Denmark's transport minister then spoke in January 2015, stating that, although he was not opposed to Uber, the app was "contrary" to Danish law—consumer safety and employee training were identified as the key concerns. However, a final decision is subject to the outcome of the police investigation that was initiated in November 2014.
After Uber launched its UberPop version of the app in Paris in early 2014, the Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Product Quality/Safety (DGCCRF), France’s consumer-protection agency, began its campaign to ban UberPop around March. The DGCCRF argued that UberPop sells itself as a ride-sharing service when it is actually a taxi service—in France, ride-sharing on a for-profit basis is illegal.
In addition to the consumer agency's action, taxi companies staged a series of strikes, while authorities passed new legislation in September requiring all car services that aren’t traditional taxis to return to a garage between fares and prohibited Uber from displaying the location of nearby cars on its app. A court decision deeming the service illegal was handed down on October 17, 2014. The court stated that UberPop violated a pre-existent regulation that bans carpooling for profit and fined Uber €100,000 (US$128,000) for "deceptive practices."
After the UberPool service, described by Uber as the next iteration of the UberPop model, was introduced to Paris in mid-November 2014, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber's Western Europe chief, told the media that "We [Uber] will never make any changes until we are forced to," confirming that Uber was appealing the French decision. Gore-Coty said that Uber was "very confident" about overturning the decision and believed that the court decision was based upon an inapplicable court decision—the startup argued that the provision is unclear and should be overturned. The chief added that Uber is unaware of an underlying law that regulates car sharing in France, and had no intention of changing its app in accordance with French legal demands. At the start of February 2015, UberPool remained operational in Paris.
On December 12, 2014, a French court ruled that Uber could not advertise some of its services to the general public in France; if it did, it would face a $25,000 daily fine. The French government announced three days later that the company's UberPop service would also be banned on January 1, 2015.
In early 2014, Berlin authorities ruled against Uber—which operates in the German cities of Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Düsseldorf—on two occasions following a case filed by the Berlin Taxi Association. The first ruling, delivered by a court of law in April 2014, deemed Uber's limousine service to be in breach of local legislation, while an August 13, 2014 decision banned the service from operating in Berlin due to safety concerns—the latter decision, which includes a €25,000 (Euro) (US$33,400) fine for non-compliance, cited issues pertaining to unregulated vehicles and unqualified drivers who are not properly insured. A Berlin Taxi Association representative said on August 14 that the legal proceedings were ongoing, and that Uber could lodge an appeal against the second decision.
On August 28, 2014, a court in Frankfurt issued an immediate cease and desist order against Uber, following an appeal from the cooperative Taxi Deutschland. The preliminary injunction applied to all of Germany and included a fine of €250,000 (US$328,108) per ride for non-compliance. If the injunction was breached, Uber's German-based employees could be jailed for up to six months, in addition to an imposition of fines upon the company. Uber's premium Uber Black service was not affected by the ruling.
On September 16, 2014, the district court of Frankfurt revoked the preliminary injunction, thereby re-allowing Uber to operate in Germany. The presiding judge wrote that the Taxi Deutschland case "would have had prospects for success," but the case was merely lodged too late, as any case needs to be filed within two months of a service's launch—Uber started in Germany in April 2014, but the case was filed in August 2014. According to Taxi Deutschland's legal representative after the announcement of the decision, the body had "already decided to appeal the decision, and we [Taxi Deutschland] will also seek that the temporary injunction be reinstated," meaning that the matter must be heard in a higher court.
On March 18, 2015, the Frankfurt district court imposed a nationwide ban on local transport services using Uber and UberPop smartphone apps. Each violation of this Uber order would be subject to a 250,000 euro fine. According to the presiding judge, there is a violation of the passenger transport law because drivers operate without authorisation and don't have the right kinds of licenses. He also said that the company did not carry sufficient insurance to cover Uber’s services. Uber's other services, UberBlack and UberTaxi, which use only professionally licensed drivers, are not affected by this ruling.
The Hyderabad road transport authority banned Uber cabs a day after the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs advised all states to stop the operation of web-based taxi services. A spokesman for the authority said that Uber did not hold a license to operate in the city, and asked the public to cease using Uber cab services.
The state government of Karnataka was reported to have banned Uber on the morning of December 11, 2014. The decision occurred after Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced in Parliament on December 9, 2014, that he had advised all states and Union territories to ban unregistered and unlicensed cab services. The state's transport department was expected to issue the notification imposing the ban during the afternoon of December 11.
- New Delhi
In December 2014, following allegations of rape against an Uber driver in New Delhi, India, Uber was banned from New Delhi for not following the city's compulsory police verification procedure. The driver had been charged, then acquitted, of a prior sexual assault in 2011. Within two days of the rape incident, almost 7,000 people signed a petition calling on Uber to conduct mandatory seven-year background checks on drivers, in line with its U.S. operations. Delhi's transport department banned Uber from all activities related to the provision of any type of transport service in the city. Uber issued a statement stating that it would work with the Indian government "to establish clear background checks currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs."
In banning Uber, Delhi's transport department cited a number of rules that Uber had broken. According to India's Radio Taxi Scheme, 2006, all taxi licensees must be either a company under the Companies Act, 1956, or a society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. Furthermore, taxi services must provide adequate parking space for all taxis, as well as sufficiently sized office space to accommodate the control room, the maintenance of a minimum fleet size per license (500 vehicles), and all vehicles must be fitted with GPS/GPRS tracking systems (to be in constant communication with the control room while on duty). The rules also stipulate that the taxi licensee is responsible for ensuring the quality of drivers, including police verifications, supervision, and employee behaviour.
On December 8, 2014, Dutch judges banned the UberPop ridesharing service that was launched as a pilot project in Amsterdam between July and September 2014, followed by an expansion into The Hague and Rotterdam. The Hague-based Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal ruled: "Drivers who transport people for payment without a licence are breaking the law". Uber's official response indicated that the company would continue to offer the service, despite the €100,000 fine and the €40,000 fine for drivers who are apprehended.
In January 2015, a number of Uber vehicles were stopped by New Zealand Police. The police's position is that Uber is in violation of the Land Transport Act because the fares are not agreed upon ahead of time; hence, Uber hires do not fit the legal definition of a "private hire service," in accordance with its registration in New Zealand. Two Uber drivers were charged with violating the Land Transport Act and face fines of up to NZ$10,000.
On January 20, 2015, the Associate Transport Minister, Craig Foss, said that the rules covering taxis and private hire services, including Uber, will be reviewed by New Zealand officials by mid-2015.
On October 23, 2014, despite the recommendation of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the Philippine Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) imposed a ₱120,000 (US$2,676) to ₱200,000 (US$4,460) fine for the use of the Uber app on public utility vehicles and sedans, respectively. A spokesperson for the board said that the fines were issued because Uber did not have an approved franchise to operate in the country—they were not directed at the service itself. The LTFRB also remarked that Uber can still operate in Metro Manila if the Philippine House of Representatives grants the company a proper legislative franchise, saying "We want this scheme work in the Philippines because the application is good, but it has to work inside the context of Philippine laws."
On October 30, 2014, after an intervention from the Department of Transportation and Communications, the LTFRB temporarily suspended its campaign of apprehending Uber vehicles and will review its operations.
Following the commencement of Uber services in Warsaw, Jaroslaw Iglikowski, chief of the Union of Warsaw Taxi Drivers, said: "We will put pressure on politicians, and demand that they change the regulations [for firms offering taxi services]."
Over 30 vehicles operating for the Uber service in Cape Town were impounded at the beginning of January 2015. Local transport officials claimed that the service was operating without suitable permits.
The Seoul city government released an official statement in July 2014 expressing its intention to seek a ban on Uber's smartphone app. The government stated that South Korean law prohibits fee-paying transport services that use unregistered private or rented vehicles, and a Seoul driver received a one-million won (US$974) fine in April 2014 after using Uber to solicit customers in a rented car. The city government also initiated a police investigation of Uber in June 2014, but the request was suspended due to a lack of evidence; however, the July statement indicated that the investigation would be recommenced. A response from Uber warned the government that it risked being "trapped in the past."
In December 2014, the company's Korean office announced that the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office had issued an indictment against both them and Kalanick. The indictment is in regard to the violation of a Korean law prohibiting individuals or firms without appropriate licences from providing or facilitating transportation services.
In March 2015, the company's Korean office announced that that Uber is suspending uber X and limiting Uber Black, as required by South Korean law.
On December 9, 2014, a judge ordered Uber to cease all activities in Spain. Since its arrival in Spain, the company had been the target of a series of protests by the Madrid Taxi Association, which considers the app to be unfair competition. In a statement after the ruling, the Spanish court stated that drivers "lack the administrative authorisation to carry out the job, and the activity they carry out constitutes unfair competition." The company suspended its operations in Spain on December 30, 2014.
As of December 6, 2014, Uber Taiwan had received over NT$ $1,000,000 in fines for operating illegally, including a cease and desist of the app, on December 5, 2014. Issues included failure to insure vehicles, operating like a business without a business license, metered fares unknown to passengers, metered fares not inspected by the Ministry of Transportation and Communication, and failure to report income and pay taxes. Many drivers had their licenses suspended for violations. In December 2014 the Ministry of Transportation and Communications announced that the company was operating unlicensed taxis in violation of national law, and that the government was considering blocking the service.
Following concerns raised by taxi drivers in Thailand over the lower rates charged by Uber drivers, the head of the country's Department of Land Transport, Teerapong Rodpraser, declared Uber illegal on November 28, 2014, alleging that Uber vehicles are not properly registered in Thailand, the charging methods of Uber drivers are not valid, Thai Uber drivers are not properly licensed, and the service discriminates against people who do not possess credit cards.
The Department also raised security concerns over Uber's credit card-only policy in Thailand, and Teerapong said that Uber was also illegal under Thailand's Motor Vehicle Act B.E. 2522. As of the November 2014 announcement, the Uber Black and UberX services are available in the Thai cities of Bangkok and Phuket.
Following the announcement, Uber drivers faced a maximum 4,000-baht fine is caught by police. Meanwhile, a meeting of different government agencies was held to decide how Uber services would be managed in the future—the outcome was not publicized in the media at the time of the announcement.
On June 11, 2014, London-based Hackney carriage (black cab) drivers, members of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, disrupted traffic as a protest against Transport for London's refusal to stop Uber's calculation of fares based on distance and time taken, as they claimed it infringes upon their right to be the sole users of taximeters in London. The following week, London mayor Boris Johnson stated it would be "difficult" for him to ban Uber "without the risk of a judicial review"; however, he expressed sympathy for the view of the black-cab drivers:
I think it's a very difficult [question] ... We've gone to the high court to get a ruling on this, and the issue is basically: is the driver's mobile in the cab equivalent to a taxi meter? I can see why m'learned friends might think that it is, because it's receiving data about, or it's calculating, the distance and time and the fare. And there are other lawyers who say that it isn't, and that was the advice of the counsel to TfL. And so we've got a legal problem.
In May 2011, Uber received a cease-and-desist letter from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, claiming it was operating an unlicensed taxi service, and another legal demand from the California Public Utilities Commission that it was operating an unlicensed limousine dispatch. Both claimed criminal violations and demanded that the company cease operations. In response, the company, among other things, changed its name from UberCab to Uber. In the fall of 2012, the California Public Utilities Commission issued a cease-and-desist letter to Uber (along with rideshare companies Lyft and SideCar) and fined each $20,000. However, an interim agreement was reached in 2013 reversing those actions.
In January 2012, an Uber driver's cab was impounded as part of a sting by the Washington, D.C. taxicab commission. The commissioner said the company was operating an unlicensed taxicab service in the city. Following a social media campaign by Uber's users, the D.C. city council voted in July to formally legalize this type of service with no minimum fare, which led to taxicab drivers protesting.
On August 1, 2012, the Massachusetts Division of Standards issued a cease-and-desist letter to Uber, on the grounds that the GPS-based smartphone app was not a certified measurement device, but on August 15, the agency reversed its ruling after prodding by Governor Deval Patrick, saying that technique was satisfactory because it was under study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
On October 5, 2012, Uber was sued by the taxi and livery companies in Chicago. According to the release, Uber is accused of violating Chicago city laws and Illinois state laws designed to protect public safety, consumer protection, and fair practices.
The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has discouraged drivers from participating in Uber, resulting in suspension of Uber-operated taxi service in the city in October 2012. Uber's premium sedan service was not affected. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York later that month, Uber drew criticism for doubling prices as part of its "surge pricing" system. (Uber ultimately waived its fees and passed on all of the fares to its drivers, and defended its pricing by noting that it tripled the number of vehicles available.)
In September 2013, the CPUC unanimously voted to make the agreement permanent, creating a new category of service called transportation network companies to cover Lyft, UberX, SideCar, and Summon, thereby making California the first jurisdiction to recognize such services.
On March 17, 2014, the Seattle City Council voted to limit the number of drivers that ridesharing services like Uber, Lyft, SideCar, and others could operate to 150 per service. City Council Member Kshama Sawant argued in favor of the caps as a means to protect traditional taxi drivers. However, on April 17, 2014, the council's ordinance was suspended by a coalition that obtained 36,000 signatures to put the question to voters in a referendum. As a result, Mayor Ed Murray announced a 45-day negotiation process to find an alternative approach. As of July 14, 2014, Uber has donated over $500,000 to "Seattle Citizens to Repeal Ordinance 124441," a political group seeking to overturn the ordinance limiting the number of rideshare vehicles in Seattle.
On September 17, 2014, California's Governor approved the "Assembly Bill No. 2293" bill that will become effective on July 1, 2015. The bill will amend "the Passenger Charter-party Carriers’ Act to enact specified requirements for liability insurance coverage for transportation network companies, as defined, and their participating drivers." The driver under the new law is defined as "any person who uses a vehicle in connection with a transportation network company’s online-enabled application or platform to connect with passengers." The stated minimum insurance requirement ranges from US$50,000 to $100,000 for death and injuries per individual or incident, and stipulates US$30,000 for property damage. As a breach of the bill would be classified as a criminal act, a corresponding "state-mandated local program" will be implemented.
On November 25, 2014, Washoe County, Nevada District Court Judge, Scott Freeman, issued a preliminary injunction preventing Uber from operating statewide. The temporary injunction was based on the company's failure to file a certificate of public convenience and necessity, which is required for every transportation service in Nevada to conform with state regulations. The Government of Nevada also claims that Uber's screening process is not rigorous enough to protect consumers, and fails to conform with the aforementioned regulations. Uber contested the ruling, arguing that it is an app-based technology company rather than a transportation company, but the company's management made the decision to temporarily shut down its Nevada operations.
On December 8, 2014, the City of Portland, Oregon, sued Uber, claiming that Uber violates the city's Private for Hire Transportation Regulations and Administrative Rules. The court was asked to stop Uber from operating in Portland. The following week, the company suspended its operations in the city for three months, pending planned changes to local regulations.
A day after the lawsuit by the City of Portland, the District Attorneys of both Los Angeles, California and Uber's headquarter city of San Francisco also sued the company, claiming that it had "refused to comply with straightforward California laws that protect consumers from fraud and harm", and that it made misleading statements about the background checks it performs on drivers and falsely charging a "Safe Rides Fee". San Francisco's city attorneys had previously settled out of court with the rideshare company Lyft over similar allegations.
In January 2015, the enforcement bureau of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) announced that it would subpoena Kalanick to appear at a February meeting of the PUC, to provide information they had asked Kalanick for some months before, on trips the ride-sharing company took while under a cease-and-desist order issued by an administrative law judge panel over the previous summer. In past actions, the PUC had cited ride-share drivers for providing service illegally in Allegheny County. They also said that they would be raising the proposed penalties from $95,000 and $1,000 per day of operation without authority, to $19 million and $1,000 per day from October 3, 2014, until Uber provides the data the PUC is requesting.
Criticism and controversies
Lawsuits by private entities
In December 2013, an Uber driver ran over and killed a six-year-old girl, and in the same incident, severely injured her mother and brother. The driver was not carrying a passenger, but the girl's family filed a wrongful death claim against Uber, claiming the driver was using Uber's mobile application at the time.
In September 2014, a class-action was filed by Atlanta, Georgia taxicab drivers and CPNC holders as the plaintiff class, against Uber Technologies, Inc., its subsidiary Raiser LLC (which operates UberX), and in a rare move, all of both companies' drivers as a defendant class in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia, for restitution of all metered fares collected via the Uber and UberX apps for trips originating within the Atlanta city limits.
In December 2014, Checker Cab Philadelphia and 44 other taxi companies in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging that Uber was operating illegally in the city.
In 2015, a Delhi woman who claims to have been raped by Uber driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, in her city, is suing the company for negligence in US courts.
National Federation of the Blind lawsuit
A lawsuit was filed in the U.S. state of California on September 9, 2014 by the state chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, in response to the reported denial of services to "more than 30" blind customers—the lawsuit claimed that the conduct was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and California state law. The Washington Post published a direct quote from the complaint, in which the Federation claims that its constituency "face the degrading experience of being denied a basic service that is available to all other paying customers." Two cases were described in the Post article: First, a California UberX driver allegedly stored a service dog in the trunk of his vehicle and refused to acknowledge the blind passenger's concern upon the latter's realization of what had occurred; second, a driver allegedly cursed at a blind passenger during a verbal exchange, in which the latter was explaining the nature of the guide dog—according to the complaint, the driver suddenly accelerated, and nearly injured the dog, while also striking the passenger’s blind friend with an open car door.
Uber responded to a number of blind passengers who reported their experiences, stating that since Uber drivers were independent contractors, the company was unable to oversee their conduct. The Federation replied in a public statement that Uber closely monitored its drivers' work practices through the Uber app, that Uber advised blind passengers to notify drivers about their guide animals in advance, and that the Federation was proceeding with the filing of the lawsuit after Uber refused to enter into a negotiation with them to resolve the issue.
On January 13, 2014, cab drivers in Paris attacked an Uber driver's car near Charles de Gaulle Airport, protesting competition from the transportation startup. On June 11, 2014, in a concerted action, taxis blocked roads in major European cities in protest against what they perceive as a threat to their livelihoods by companies such as Uber. The cabbies contended that Uber and similar smartphone app-based services have an unfair advantage because they are not subject to the same kinds of fees and regulations placed on taxis.
Sabotage against competitors
Uber issued an apology on January 24, 2014, after documents were leaked to the Valleywag and TechCrunch publications saying that, earlier in the month, Uber employees in New York City deliberately ordered rides from Gett, a newly established competitor, only to cancel them later. The purpose of the fake orders was two-fold: wasting drivers' time to obstruct legitimate customers from securing a car, and offered drivers incentives—including cash—to join Uber. Uber apologized in a statement on its website.
In August 2014, Lyft, another ridesharing service, reported to CNN Money that 177 Uber employees had ordered and cancelled approximately 5,560 rides since October 2013, and that it had found links to Uber recruiters by cross-referencing the phone numbers involved. The CNN Money report identified one Lyft passenger who canceled 300 rides from May 26 to June 10, 2014, and who was identified as an Uber recruiter by seven different Lyft drivers. On this occasion, Uber did not issue an apology, but suggested in a statement on its website that the recruitment attempts were possibly independent parties trying to make money. A Lyft spokesperson stated to CNN Money: "It's unfortunate for affected community members that they have used these tactics, as it wastes a driver's time and impacts the next passenger waiting for that driver."
Following a series of 2014 media articles, in which several allegations surfaced that Uber employed aggressive business practices, the news website Salon publication published an article on August 31, 2014 by staff writer Andrew Leonard, titled "Why Uber must be stopped." Leonard described Uber as "the closest thing we’ve got today to the living, breathing essence of unrestrained capitalism," and warned of the harms that will occur if the company achieves a "dominant market position in every major city on the globe."
In August 2014, the online publication The Verge reported that a secret Uber project, called "Operation SLOG"—which recruits members with the assistance of TargetCW, a San Diego, California-based employment agency—appeared to be an extension of the company's activities in relation to Lyft. As reported, on July 9, 2014 following Lyft's expansion into New York City, Uber sent an email offering what it called a "huge commission opportunity" to several contractors based on the "personal hustle" of the participants. Those who responded met with Uber marketing managers who attempted, according to one of the contractors, to create a "street team" to gather intelligence about Lyft’s launch plans and recruit their drivers to Uber. Recruits were given two Uber-branded iPhones (one a backup, in case the person was identified by Lyft) and a series of valid credit card numbers to create dummy Lyft accounts. After being contacted for comment, Target CW warned its contractors against talking to the media, stating that it represented a violation of a non-disclosure agreement they signed.
At a private dinner in November 2014, Emil Michael, senior vice president of Uber, suggested that Uber hire a team of opposition researchers and journalists, with a million-dollar budget, to dig into the personal lives and backgrounds of media figures who reported negatively about Uber. Specifically, he targeted Sarah Lacy, editor of the technology website PandoDaily, who has accused Uber of sexism and misogyny. The controversy made national news and stirred criticism against Uber. "The comments, reportedly made by senior vice president for business Emil Michael at a New York dinner attended by BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith," wrote a Washington Post columnist, "ignited a powder keg of criticism about a company already perceived as cut-throat — landing Uber on the front pages of The Washington Post, USA Today and the New York Times."
Michael issued a public apology. Later, he sent an email to Lacy: "I was at an event and was venting, but what I said was never intended to describe actions that would ever be undertaken by me or my company toward you or anyone else. I was definitively wrong and I feel terrible about any distress I have caused you."
Speaking with the Australian media publication The Conversation on November 20, 2014, European PR agency FINN partner Raf Weverbergh said that Uber does not realize exactly how upset journalists are in the wake of the Michael incident. On the same date, the publication reported that more journalists deleted their Uber apps. Uber's Brisbane spokesperson stated that journalists will not be investigated by the company in the Australian state of Queensland, in light of the legislative difficulties that were occurring at the time.
Kalanick received a letter, dated November 19, 2014, from Senator Al Franken, Chairman of the United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, over user privacy. In addition to a list of 10 questions, Franken stated that the company had a "troubling disregard for customer privacy" and that he was "especially troubled because there appears to be evidence of practices inconsistent with the policy [Uber spokesperson] Ms. Hourajian articulated" and that "it appears that on prior occasions your company [Uber] has condoned use of customers’ data for questionable purposes". Franken concluded his letter by asking for a response by December 15, 2014.
Concerns have been raised about internal misuse of the company's data, in particular the ability of Uber staff to track the movements of its customers, known as "God Mode". In addition to the aforementioned use of the service to track journalists and politicians, a venture capitalist disclosed in 2011 that Uber staff were using the function recreationally and viewed being tracked by Uber as a positive reflection on the subject's character. An individual who had interviewed for a job at Uber said that he was given unrestricted access to Uber's customer tracking function as part of the interview process, and that he retained that access for several hours after the interview ended.
On February 27, 2015, Uber admitted that it had suffered a data breach more than nine months before. Driver names and license plate information on approximately 50,000 drivers were inadvertently disclosed. Uber discovered this leak in September, 2014 but waited more than five months to notify the people affected.
On August 4, 2014, the company announced the scheduled removal of a driver from the service pending a medical review, after the driver suffered an epileptic seizure while driving that resulted in an accident with a pedestrian in San Francisco. The 56-year-old driver was hospitalized after hitting three parked cars and then a man on the sidewalk; an Uber spokesperson said in the announcement that the driver "has an outstanding record of service and safety with no prior incidents."
In December 2014, the New York Times reported on concerns regarding the manner in which the Uber's app notifies drivers about new requests for pick-up from customers. When a customer makes a request, drivers are notified on an official Uber mobile app and provided information about where the customer is; in order to accept the request, the driver has approximately 15 seconds to tap their phone to accept the request. An Uber driver reported that drivers can be temporarily suspended for ignoring these requests. Deborah Hersman of the National Transportation Safety Board criticized the 15-second system, saying that it presents a significant distraction to drivers, as drivers are financially motivated to respond to fares while driving. In response, Uber has stated that the app "was designed with safety in mind," and that drivers are not required to physically look at the device to accept a fare.
- Online platforms for collaborative consumption
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