Even though Uber gets extremely popular wherever it goes, not everyone is happy about the company’s advances around the world. The term “Uber effect” is often used when one needs to describe how a mobile app might disrupt the way things are done, and most importantly, were done for decades, if not centuries. As it seems, old habits die hard.
Yellow Cabs vs Uber
Right now, New York City is about to become one of the first cities in America to place a cap on the number of ride-hail cars, targeting mostly Uber and Lyft. To do that, the city’s officials have prepared a set of bills. One of them would suspend licenses for new ride-hail vehicles for at least 12 month in order for New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission to research the “utilization, congestion, driver income, and neighborhood services.” There’s another bill that effectively establishes a different licensing framework for companies like Uber. The license would enable the city’s officials to restrict the company’s operation geographically, and also entitle them to revoke the license in case no “need” for the service is demonstrated.
Notably, the companies had a chance to reason with the City Council this week, and so they did. Eventually, certain amendments have been introduced to the bills. However, those amendments wouldn’t make much of a difference, and the Council will proceed to vote the next week.
New York is Uber’s largest market in the United States, and by far one of the most strictly regulated. Even though the bills, if passed, will cover only New York City, there are concerns that it may set a precedent for other locations in the U.S., so the company’s problems might be only starting.
That is, they already started and went pretty far if we consider other markets where Uber is present. While people in many countries embraced Uber, local cab drivers and officials weren’t as happy, and their reaction suggests that a wrong phenomenon was dubbed the “Uber effect.”
Planet Earth Hates Uber
In Bulgaria, Uber suspended its services altogether after being fined €50,000 and accused of “unfair practices”, which included absence of any licenses for its drivers (which, as we know, is the entire point of Uber). Meanwhile, in Denmark, fare meters and seat occupancy sensors are mandatory, so in 2017 Uber had to get out of the country as well. In Hungary, the government even passed a law that blocked Uber’s application. In Germany, Uber only offers limited services in Berlin and Munich after being obliged to get commercial licenses by a regional court in the city of Frankfurt.
Meanwhile, Uber’s traditional competitors aren’t happy about its omnipresence as well. In Mexico, cab drivers of Cancún and Playa del Carmen areas protested against a law that would enable Uber to legally operate in the country. In particular, over 2,000 people went out in the middle of a federal highway between those two areas, and blocked it. In Spain, taxi drivers had a strike lasting six days demanding that the government passes regulation similar to one proposed in New York City: capping the number of private hire vehicles. Notably, the protesters had their way, and the government agreed with their demands. Meanwhile, in London, cabbies weigh on bringing a class action suit against Uber, with the overall bill estimated at around 1.25 billion pounds.
While taxi drivers are obviously concerned about their jobs, and the governments are more focused on passenger safety and the accountability of their rides, those aren’t the only issues with Uber. Even in a strange new world where taxi drivers don’t give a damn about their jobs, and governments about safety, Uber still manages to run into serious problems. Mostly, the ones it creates itself.
Not So Perfec
While Uber may be offering great services, it has a long and rich history of not that pleasant news ranging from scandals involving the company’s former CEO Travis Kalanick and his uncommon approach to ethics to accusations in racially biased HR policies and privacy concerns. Hell, this company even has a special fan-site entirely dedicated to keeping a record of Uber’s scandals, unsurprisingly titled Uberscandals.org.
Speaking of privacy concerns, back in 2016 Uber was hacked, and the perpetrators got away with personal information, including names, emails and phone numbers of 57 million Uber’s users, both drivers and clients. Notably, the company didn’t care much about revealing the fact of a massive breach up until 2017. Uber’s officials paid hackers $100,000 to keep things silent.
As for the accusations of racial prejudice, just less than a month ago Uber’s Chief People Officer Liane Hornsey resigned after an investigation into her approach to handling allegations of racism within the company. An anonymous group that claimed to be “Uber employees of color” accused Hornsey of using “discriminatory language”, making “derogatory comments” about her own colleagues, and even threatening now former executive Bozoma Saint John.
And as a cherry on top of this cake of bigotry, or actually a handful of cherries that barely fit there, Uber is one of the leading newsmakers in terms of sexism and harassment in Silicon Valley. To be concise, just take a look at these slogans: “Order on UberEats and let your wife take a day off from the kitchen,” “Use promo code ‘nocookingday’,” and, of course, “Dear husbands, a gentle reminder — Today is Wife Appreciation Day!” So much for the 21st century.
Uber has a lot of problems. Of course, in some cases the company or its particular representatives were simply asking for trouble. But it seems pretty obvious that you can’t “disrupt” a well-rooted market without somehow harming those who were in this market before you, and at the same time stay intact yourself. The problem is, the tide may have already changed for Uber.
Follow us on Twitter to stay tuned on the recent developments in regulation of new technologies, and be the first to read expert opinions.