With the news of Uber’s impending IPO hot off the press, it’s worth a look into the ongoing disaster that is Uber’s PR status. Wall Street could value the “technology platform” at up to $120 billion,1 but the company continues to weather controversy, as its hard-charging, cutthroat approach to business creates negative headlines.
NOTE: I think Uber’s service is convenient and definitely a value to the public—but companies that disrupt the status quo have to obtain and maintain consistent and strong goodwill through public relations. New services, changing the way it has always been done does not come without its trials and tribulations. PR is the long lever that can help a company iron out its processes internally for better relations with their publics.
The most recent strike? A lawsuit by former ridesharing competitor Sidecar, which alleges that Uber used illegal practices to cement its place in the market and get ahead.2 This is just one of several lawsuits currently facing Uber, as you’ll see in our sampling of the company’s negative press below:
- December 2016: Uber was forced to pull its fleet of self-driving cars off the road after the California Department of Motor Vehicles found that they were operating without a license.3
- January 2017: The hashtag #DeleteUber went viral and 200,000 people uninstalled their accounts after Uber provided ridesharing service during a taxi strike to protest President Trump’s refugee ban.4
- February 2017: A female software engineer at Uber published a blog post detailing how she had been sexually harassed at work, but that HR failed to prosecute the offending party because he was a “high performer.”5
- February 2017: Alphabet’s autonomous car company Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber alleging that the company had stolen 14,000 files worth of trade secrets on an external hard drive.6
- August 2017: Uber ended its controversial practice of tracking riders’ locations for up to five minutes after the ride ends.7
- September 2017: Uber was deemed not “fit and proper” to operate in London due to safety concerns and lost license for service there [they were reinstated in June 2018].8
- November 2017: Two women who were assaulted by their drivers brought a class-action lawsuit against Uber.9
- An Uber driver robbed a passenger with the help of a translator app.10
- Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi lobbied in a private meeting with UK Secretary of State Chris Grayling for “congestion charges” that would hit poorer Private Hire Vehicle drivers the hardest.11
- A pair of dirty underwear arrived in an Uber Eats delivery, with the driver appearing to be complicit.12
- The Uber app suffered a major outage, and tech support appeared to be unresponsive to passenger and driver complaints.13
Do you use Uber? Despite the ghastly headlines, millions of people across the globe still do, because it’s “uber”-convenient and comparatively cheap. But companies, even behemoths like Uber, can’t get along on this kind of bad faith forever.
As the company becomes publicly traded, look for the scrutiny to increase. Uber had better clean up its act – or be demolished by pressure from unsatisfied drivers, riders, and shareholders.
I hope Uber comes through it. Do you? What has been your experience with Uber?
1) Clark, Kate. “Uber Files Confidentially for IPO.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 8 Dec. 2018, techcrunch.com/2018/12/07/uber-files-confidentially-for-ipo/.
2) Clark, Kate. “Sidecar Says Uber ‘Took Illegal Steps to Undermine’ Competitors in New Lawsuit.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 11 Dec. 2018, techcrunch.com/2018/12/11/sidecar-says-uber-took-illegal-steps-to-undermine-competitors-in-new-lawsuit/.
3) Newcomer, Eric. “In Video, Uber CEO Argues With Driver Over Falling Fares.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-28/in-video-uber-ceo-argues-with-driver-over-falling-fares.
7) Wamsley, Laurel. “Uber Ends Its Controversial Post-Ride Tracking Of Users’ Location.” NPR, NPR, 29 Aug. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/08/29/547113818/uber-ends-its-controversial-post-ride-tracking-of-users-location.
8) Rao, Prashant S., and Mike Isaac. “Uber Loses License to Operate in London.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 Sept. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/09/22/business/uber-london.html.
9) Bhuiyan, Johana. “Uber Is Facing a Class Action Lawsuit from U.S. Riders Alleging Assault.” Recode, Recode, 14 Nov. 2017, www.recode.net/2017/11/14/16647706/uber-class-action-lawsuit-riders-sexual-assault-rape-violence-background-checks.
10) Miller, Joshua Rhett. “Uber Driver Robbed a Customer with the Help of a Translator App: Cops.” New York Post, New York Post, 11 Dec. 2018, nypost.com/2018/12/11/uber-driver-robbed-a-customer-with-the-help-of-a-translator-app-cops/.
11) Quinn, Ben. “Uber Pushed for UK Congestion Charges That Would Hit Poor Hardest.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 12 Dec. 2018, www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/dec/12/uber-pushed-for-uk-congestion-charges-that-would-hit-poor-hardest.
12) WPLG. “Uber Eats Customer: Dirty Undies Came with Order.” WPTV, 11 Dec. 2018, www.wptv.com/news/state/dirty-underwear-arrived-in-uber-eats-delivery-florida-customer-claims.
13) Rapier, Graham. “Uber Customers and Drivers Are Furious after a Major Outage Causes All Kinds of Issues.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 11 Dec. 2018, www.businessinsider.com/uber-outage-leaves-customers-drivers-furious-2018-12.