Uber has, across its 10-year history, been the subject of any number of public scandals — from workplace sexual harassment and data privacy to labour strikes and myriad other controversies. But thanks to a forthcoming book on the beleaguered company, employees had a chance to reminisce about one some of us may not remember: Its sketchy-arse Safe Rides Fee.
This particular public relations fiasco — one related to a policy the company initially announced in 2014 — was resurfaced this week courtesy of an article adapted from Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber, a forthcoming book from New York Times reporter Mike Isaac, who spoke with employees who worked on the project.
“We boosted our margins saying our rides were safer,” the former told Isaac last year as he was researching his book. “It was obscene.”
At the time, and following a wave of customer complaints about the service, Uber said it would tack on a $US1 ($1.48) Safe Rides Fee to uberX fares in the US.
The fee — the company said in a blog post that’s since vanished from its website — would cover costs related to its ongoing efforts to improve the safety of its service, including “an industry-leading background check process, regular motor vehicle checks, driver safety education, current and future development of safety features in the app, and insurance”.
That little “fee” for “safety” — which Bloomberg reported has jumped to as high as $US2.50 ($3.70) in some areas in the past — is said to have generated nearly half a billion US dollars for the company.
However, a class-action lawsuit against Uber later alleged that despite the charges to its riders, “Uber’s background check procedures and safety measures are woefully inadequate and fall well short of what is required for other commercial providers of transportation”.
An Uber spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment about the Times report. However, the company eventually reached a settlement of around $US30 million ($44 million) over Uber’s claims regarding safety.
This fiasco is just a drop in a very large bucket chock-full of Uber controversies, and a salient reminder that Uber was — and arguably continues to be — exactly as bad as you suspected.