The week of attacks on Uber continue. We already noted the problems the company was having in South Korea and France, and around the time that went up, Uber got banned in Germany. And then, a bunch of California taxi cab companies teamed up to sue Uber, claiming Uber is engaging in deceptive advertising by claiming that its safer than a taxi. The companies are particularly annoyed with the fact that Uber charges a “safe rides fee” but it’s not clear if the company actually uses that money for safety purposes. As with similar lawsuits in other cities, it’s difficult to see how this is anything more than sour grapes against a company that is serving customers better.
Uber certainly has its issues, but the arguments that cab companies make against it just seem like the kind of thing competitors who don’t want to compete make against the hot new thing. Whatever happened to just competing by building a better service, rather than suing? When I get into any kind of car — whether driven by myself, a family member, a friend, an Uber driver or a taxi driver, I know that there’s some amount of risk involved. That’s the nature of getting into a car. I don’t think that an Uber driver is any safer, even when I do pay the $1 “safety” fee. I use services like Uber and Lyft for their convenience, not because there’s any magical formula for safety. So, when the cabbies make this argument, it just rings hollow:
These statements actually deceive, or have the tendency to deceive, customers into believing that riders who pay this $1 per ride fee to use UberX are safer than if they chose transportation via a taxi cab. Because this “Safe Rides Fee” is a separate line item on the receipt that Uber issues to customers, this bolsters the consumers’ expectation that they should be receiving the safest ride possible. Put differently, considering that Uber explicitly specifies that this is an additional safety fee, it is reasonable for consumers to expect that they will be receiving a ride safer than that provided by Plaintiffs’ taxi cabs, as Plaintiffs’ taxicabs simply charge a total fare, without imposing any additional surcharge to ensure a “Safe Ride.”
No. I use Uber and I don’t think that by paying $1 I’m any safer. But I do think that Uber, like any company, recognizes that having happy customers is important, and that includes making sure that drivers do a good job — which, for the most part they do. I don’t need some extra level of regulation that limits the competition, but doesn’t actually make me any safer. I prefer a system where drivers actually compete to do a good job, knowing that if they don’t they may get a bad rating and kicked out of the system. Uber works because of competition, and it’s that simple fact that has these taxi companies so upset.