Add one more lawsuit to Uber’s busy docket of fraud, technology theft, and predatory pricing disputes playing out in the courts of California. The latest litigation against the ridesharing company claims that Uber has engaged in a sophisticated fare manipulation scheme wherein the same ride is calculated differently for the rider and the driver, creating an overcharge for the rider while underpaying the driver.
The class action suit, filed last week in Los Angeles, claims that riders are shown an inflated “upfront” price for a longer route when ordering the ride, while drivers are assigned a shorter route and are paid less for driving the route.
“The manipulation of prices between the amount charged to users and the amount reported to drivers is clever and sophisticated,” says a copy of the filing obtained by Ars Technica. “The software utilized in determining the upfront price is specifically designed to provide a route distance and time estimate based on traffic conditions and other variables but not to determine the shortest/quickest reasonable route based on those conditions.”
“Meanwhile,” the suit claims, “the software utilized in the driver’s application, which navigates the driver’s to the User’s destination, utilizes traffic conditions and other variables to provide the driver with a more efficient, shorter, or quicker route to the User’s destination, resulting in a lower fare payout to the driver.”
As you can imagine, Uber is alleged to be pocketing the difference between the rider’s overcharge and the driver’s underpayment.
This overcharging charge is not entirely new, and Uber drivers say they’ve often noticed discrepancies between the fares shown to them and those shown to their riders. A certain “YouTube celebrity” Uber driver who goes by the handle Uber Man posted a video on the upfront pricing lawsuit, and dozens of drivers chimed into the comments claiming the same had happened to them.
“Had a 22 Mile ride today on a 1.7 surge,” says one of many similar driver comments. “Passenger got in and asked me why it was gonna be $80, I said I dunno, by my calculations should be about $60 with the surge. I was right. She got charged $80, and I made $44.10 after Uber took their “25 percent”. I’m getting this more and more recently.”
Granted, these are unverified YouTube comments. But the class action suit represents thousands of Uber drivers who all agree that this exact price-fixing scheme is in place. And given Uber’s recent track record of sexual harassment, terrible treatment of drivers, and lying about self-driving car shenanigans, the company has about as much credibility as an unverified YouTube commenter.