Uber offers tepid response to local driver fare and pricing concerns

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Uber has been in the news this week following the publishing of a preliminary report by the Competition Commission, investigating the ridesharing platform for the way it deals with its drivers, as well as how its massive popularity has impacted the metered taxi industry in South Africa.

Some of the more concerning findings from said report included the fact that Uber drivers were earning less each year on the platform since 2013. Added to this was the increased frustration this has created for drivers, which came to a head this week following protests from Uber and Bolt (formerly Taxify) drivers.

Uber has finally broken its silence on the matter, noting that it has been working closely with the Competition Commission in its investigation, and issued a statement regarding the recommendations that have been outlined for the company.

“We are pleased with the recommendations from the Competition Commission’s provisional report, which have the potential to improve mobility and job creation for locals and indicates a positive way forward for e-hailing and transport in South Africa,” the statement reads.

“It is especially pleasing that these recommendations include the complete proposed removal of area restrictions, which will allow consumers and drivers to move freely around their city without restrictions, increasing economic opportunities,” it continues.

Regarding the main issue of driver fares and pricing, Uber offered up a response, but it could be easily interpreted as sitting on the fence by those in the industry, instead of offering a decisive view on the subject.

“In the case of driver earnings, while the employment market locally continues to descend with economic conditions in the country under pressure, apps like Uber have provided innovative ways to leverage technology and owned assets to further supplement income. In a country where thousands of jobs are being shed, Uber has produced over 13 000 active and sustainable economic opportunities. We believe in the freedom of choice and the Uber app allows drivers the flexibility to decide when and where they use the app, thereby controlling their earning potential,” the company explains.

This could be misconstrued as a standoffish approach to the situation, with Uber simply stating that its mechanisms are in place for drivers to do with as they see fit.

That said Uber has pointed to some of the value-added elements that it has integrated into the platform to assist drivers, along with addressing some of the “unseen” costs that are entailed with the job.

“We ensure our fares are based on our tried and tested pricing model (time, distance, product) which consider the needs of the rider and driver community as well as the economics in South Africa, to provide the best possible fare ensuring that riders continue to take trips and drivers have access to more fare-paying passengers”

“Additionally, Uber always strives to maximize the earnings of drivers while also assisting in lowering their costs, for example, drivers have access to rewards that help them reduce costs and keep more of their earnings. This exclusive rewards programme provides deals such as fuel rebates, cell phone packages, maintenance and health care,” the company points out.

While it is good to see that Uber has welcomed the recommendations of the Competition Commission, the most important aspect at this stage, driver fares and pricing, still remain unaddressed.

How drivers will react to this remains to be seen, but the likelihood is that it will not go down well.

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Editor of Hypertext. Covers smartphones, IoT, 5G, cloud computing and a few things in between. Also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games when not taking the hatchet to stories.