In the debate over the arrival of driver and rider matching company Uber into London, all those Clever People Who Talk Loudly In Restaurants who favour the new kid on the block over the capital’s black cabs cite one supposed fact about Uber time and again: it is bringing competition to the streets. They favour free markets, and this is free market competition in action.
To which I say fine – so, if we’re talking about competition, and choice, there should be no problem with Uber having its own competition – other, similar services that match riders with drivers by means of a smartphone app. And, hey, there are other services like that in the USA already. So we can see how Uber deals with that free market competition, from the likes of Lyft and Gett.
Perhaps the likes of Mark Wallace, Christian “Mr Soundbite” May, Raheem “call me Ray” Kassam, and the odious flannelled fool Henry Cole, who are all eager to tell the world that Uber is A Very Wonderful Thing, would like to endorse Uber’s response to Lyft and Gett. Or, given that the response includes playing particularly dirty, perhaps they will pretend it’s not happening. But it is, and could happen here.
Uber behaves aggressively not just towards regulators and established taxi operations, but also to competition in its own back yard. As The Verge reported, “Earlier this month, CNN reported that Uber employees around the country ordered and then canceled 5,560 Lyft rides, according to an analysis by Lyft (Lyft arrived at this figure by cross-referencing the phone numbers of users who tried to recruit Lyft drivers to Uber with users who had previously canceled rides)”.
There was more: “Uber requests rides from Lyft and other competitors, recruits their drivers, and takes multiple precautions to avoid detection. The effort, which Uber appears to be rolling out nationally, has already resulted in thousands of canceled Lyft rides and made it more difficult for its rival to gain a foothold in new markets”.
Gett gets the same treatment: “Uber considers Gett a threat: over the past few weeks, Uber employees have been posing as pedestrians, creating Gett accounts for the sole purpose of scheduling and then canceling Gett rides. The result is clear: wasted time for Gett drivers, fewer available rides for Gett users, and general disarray for the whole service. And it's coming from the top brass at Uber NYC”.
And what happened after all those cancellations? “After these rides had been canceled, Uber texted the affected drivers in an attempt to recruit them—and after all the frustration they'd had with Gett, it'd seem like a sweet offer”. Lobbyists recruited to bend the rules in their favour, a queue of useful right-wing idiots to cheer for them, and dirty tricks to keep competition out of that supposedly free marketplace.
Would those Uber supporters endorse these tactics? Don’t all shout at once, guys.