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Tuesday 22 March 2016

Uber’s London Dirty Tricks Exposed

As Labour MP Wes Streeting brings a Ten Minute Rule Bill aimed at improving passenger safety for taxi and minicab riders, and to level the playing field between black cabs, minicabs and apps like Uber, before the Commons, more evidence has emerged of organised dirty tricks being perpetrated on behalf of at least one of the participants. To no surprise at all, the name in the frame is Uber.
The California based driver and rider matching app has been busily expanding its operation in London - and in other UK cities - by undercutting the competition and then undercutting its own drivers. Many Uber drivers, who have committed to buying or leasing new model cars, are reportedly working for as little as £4 an hour, while the yah-boo part of the right wing media happily and shamelessly shills for the company.

How this is being accomplished can be seen by a document apparently from Portland Communications, the agency that holds the Uber account, which sets out what it perceives as the challenges to Uber, before listing the actions is has already taken. These include “Work with Uber to reach out to transport journalists and politicians … Helped create a marketing plan which mocked taxi drivers in a tongue in cheek manner for fighting technological progress and being self-interested”.
And guess what happened? All those free market supporting and reliably right-leaning media outlets duly, er, mocked London’s black cab drivers for fighting technological progress and being self-interested. Except, as Zelo Street readers will by now know all too well, Uber is not merely about technology. It is about old-fashioned market dominance.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick let that cat out of the bag the moment he described taxis as “Assholes”. For him and his backers, the monopolising of minicabs is the name of the game, and eliminating competition the goal. The technology is the way that drivers and consumers become dependent to the point of being prisoners of the app. Not for Kalanick the encumbrance of costly infrastructure and all its overhead costs. By this much has the transportation robber baron progressed since the days of Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Moreover, the extent and nature of Uber and Portland’s “reaching outhas already been questioned by Steve McNamara of taxi union LTDA, who said of previous proposed changes “Uber will be utilising its £250,000 per month lobbying and marketing budget to pressurize its bought and paid for journalists and politicians into earning their keep, and doing all it can to block the changes. Uber doesn’t care about public safety; a lax regulatory system suits it”. That is a straight accusation of bribery.

And it is not the first time the accusation has been levelled, yet neither Uber, nor Portland, nor any journalist thus accused, implicitly or explicitly, has brought a legal action against those making the claims. So perhaps Portland would like to give a straight answer to a straight question: Is Uber paying bribes in exchange for favourable publicity?

The identities of those making information available will be kept confidential. Email address at right; there will be rather more to come later on this story.


Anonymous said...

Search the Yorkshire Evening Post website for a recent story about UBER. They boasted a driver can eran an average of £12 an hour after the uber cut and this is because they reduced the fares! Takings are not earnings.

So a driver takes £12 an hour. He has to pay tax insurance fuel maintenance depreciation on the car at a modest 50p a mile. Tax NI pension for himself and what's left he can maybe live on. I think £4 an hour earnings is generous.

Anonymous said...

As time wears on, all the "free trade" and "necessary competition" bullshit becomes more and more absurd even to their most ignorant apologists.

The whole point of "competition" is to, er, do away with competitors, create a monopoly and maximise profits. Thus "competition" provides the worst of all worlds. The most obvious example of this, its logical conclusion, is the corrupt Yank political system and its laughable "democracy." Our system is now way down the road to similar horrors.

What matters is provision of a service at a reasonable price. This means grown up talk about the relevant issues, and resolution thereof. In other words, the service is rigged for social usefulness, not profit......a notion bone-headed Krazy Krooning Kalifornian Yanks have no intention of entertaining, let alone understanding.

Sooner or later this common sense penny will drop in the zeitgeist. Not just here, but also on the other side of the pond. But alas there is a long, long road to tread before we get there........

Anonymous said...

Many of London's Cabbies are opinionated, loud and sometimes speak without first putting they're brains into gear. Hardly surprising really when you take into account they are just normal human beings, subject to the same faults and failings as everybody else on the planet. I should probably point out before any one takes offence at my opening remarks, that I'll come clean and confess to being proud to call myself one of the afore mentioned Cabbies.
Although we have famously been branded as a mob of Luddites by our exhalted Mayor, this is misleading and far from true. London Taxis have faced, and dealt with, advancements in technology for years, despite what you might be led to believe elsewhere. Right from the inception of the first telephones through to the latest GPS driven Apps, London Taxis have adapted and survived. Despite the dirty tricks and general shenanigans of Uber and their legion of paid fans I truly believe that we will overcome the current unfair and uncompetitive issues we face as we try, like many others in a variety of professions, to put food on the table and keep rooves over our heads.

Another new innovation that Taxi Drivers are still tentatively becoming involved with is Social Media, in all its various guises. Twitter, for example, is seeing an ever growing number of Drivers sign up in order to take part in the conversations and general discourse that takes place there. I'm sorry to say that although the bulk of the taxi related twittering that takes place is good natured and interesting, there does seem to be a somewhat darker side emerging. This takes the form of some negative tweets aimed at other users who at some point have mentioned Uber. Now, please don't misunderstand me or assume that I am an apologist for many of the less than friendly tweets that seem to appear, but something with a number of these negative tweets seems to be far from 'kosher'. True some cabbies have been unnecessarily harsh and rude in some of their comments, however, there is growing speculation among many genuine Taxi driving Twitter users that not all of these abusive cabbies are quite what they seem. There seems to be a growing school of thought that maybe, just maybe, some of these commentators are not Cabbies at all, but are people who have set up Twitter accounts purporting to be those of a London Taxi Driver and have been attacking Uber customers in an effort to discredit the entire, genuine trade.
With a budget of £250,000 every month (I'd love to see the breakdown of how this is spent) it's not beyond the realms of possibility that Uber are financing a nefarious campaign designed to turn public opinion away from your ordinary, everyday Taxi Driver. After all, wasnt it an Uber Vice President that suggested they put their PR department to work discrediting a Journalist in the U.S. when she wrote a particularly unfavourable piece about Uber. And wasn't it Uber that employed a small army to disrupt and damage a rival Taxi service, again in the U.S. I'm not saying mine and other Cabbies suspicions are bang on the money, but given their track record, I literally wouldn't put anything past Uber and their relentless, aggressive drive to dominate the Taxi & PH market worldwide.

Anonymous said...

Recently appointed to the role as Senior Vice President of policy and communications at Uber is one Rachel Whetstone.

Whetstone is partner to "Call me Dave"'s former guru and personal Director of Strategy Steve Hilton. They met when both working for Number 10.

Whetstone is the daughter of Linda Whetstone, a highly influential libertarian-right Tory. And she is the grand-daughter of Sir Antony Fisher, godfather of libertarian-right thinktanks across the world; and founder of that Paladin fighting the crusade for free market small-state corporate domination, the Institute of Economic Affairs.

So it's no real surprise that Uber should be running a dirty PR war against the Cabbie's union.

Unknown said...