Uber Under Siege: These Cities Are Its Biggest Enemies
If you live in a city with Uber, chances are you know it’s a necessary evil. Yes, unpredictable surge pricing and difficulty getting cars at certain hours come with the territory. But when you need a ride, you’re incredibly thankful for it.
But the company has been its own worst enemy lately, after months of controversy surrounding its corporate culture, business practices, and general disregard for local laws. As it becomes more embroiled in scandals and lawsuits around the world, here are 10 global cities where Uber has gotten itself into the most trouble.
Uber and London have been at odds for years. On top of protests from the city’s iconic black cab drivers, London has taken the ride-sharing giant to court in an attempt to force it to pay taxes, as well as minimum wage and sick pay for its drivers. Uber has fought all of these charges. And now, the city has had it. Uber’s license to operate in London expired. It can continue to operate through the appeals process (which is already set in motion). But it’s anyone’s guess how much longer Uber will stick around England’s capital city.
Montreal is one of the many cities at odds with Uber. When the company launched in Quebec in 2014, it was met with protests from taxi drivers, eventually leading to violent clashes between drivers. In response, the Quebec transport ministry recently passed a law requiring that Uber drivers across the province need to take the same mandatory 35-hour certification course that taxi drivers take. Instead of fighting, Uber has decided to pull out of Canada’s second-largest city (and the entire province).
If Uber has one city that’s a perpetual thorn in its side, it’s Paris. Back in 2015 when the company was flying high (from a PR standpoint, at least), Paris’ taxi drivers rioted as the company expanded in France. Another wave of violence broke out in January 2016. Since then, the French government has launched a criminal investigation into Uber’s operations, accusing it of illegally using driver’s personal data, developing illegal software to avoid regulators, and operating without proper licenses. A Paris court has already fined the company 800,000 euros, as well as personally fining the company’s head of French operations and its regional manager for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The company still operates in Paris (one of its largest markets), but we can’t help but wonder how much longer it can endure in such a hostile environment.
4. Las Vegas
Las Vegas (and by extension Nevada) isn’t exactly known for government oversight. But when it comes to Uber, it has gotten tough. In November 2014, a district court judge banned the ride-sharing company from the Silver State due to a lack of proper business permits. Although the decision was reversed in October 2015, Uber isn’t out of the woods yet. In the year after it was reinstated, the company cut rates on its drivers twice, dramatically lowering their take-home pay and drawing their ire. In May 2017, the Nevada state legislature passed a bill requiring Uber drivers to have proper business licenses and insurance to operate. Although this hasn’t been signed into law yet, if it passes it could spell the end of Uber in Sin City.
The Cradle of Western Civilization is no great fan of Uber. In April 2017, a court in Rome gave the ride-sharing company 10 days to discontinue service in Italy. In a suit by groups of Italian taxi drivers, the company was charged with engaging in unfair business practices. The ban, which affects Uber’s professional drivers (drivers without a business license were banned in 2015), was quickly overturned in May 2017. But if you’re visiting Italy, get your rides in while you can. This battle is likely far from over.
After operating in Alaska for just six months, the state accused the company of purposely classifying drivers as private contractors to avoid paying taxes. It was ordered to pay a $78,000 fine and left the state. But despite protests from unions, taxi drivers, and municipal leaders, Gov. Bill Walker signed a law in June, allowing Uber and rival Lyft back into the 49th state. But with detractors protesting due to the company’s previous acts of bad faith and lack of local licensing, it’s sure to be met with some fierce resistance.
7. Austin, Texas
In early 2017, fast-growing Austin passed a law requiring professional drivers to be fingerprinted and undergo background checks, a move that both Uber and Lyft vehemently opposed. After losing the battle, both companies pulled out of Texas’ capital city. While over 10 local companies have stepped in to fill the void, the two ride-sharing giants are lobbying for statewide legislation to overturn these local laws (similar measures have been passed in Corpus Christi and Galveston). They have vowed to find a way back into this lucrative market.
Uber successfully lobbied to operate in Portland, Oregon, but if you live elsewhere in Oregon it might be tougher to find a ride. In 2014, the company was caught using Greyball, software designed to identify and reject ride requests from city inspectors. It was thrown out of the state in 2015, but the city government has kept it legal in Portland. In April, a bill that would allow the ride-sharing service to operate statewide died in the state legislature. Its days in Portland might be numbered, too. City officials are calling for an investigation into any further use of Greyball by the company.
Like Austin and Portland, Vancouver is a hot spot for artists and tech companies — in theory, Uber’s bread-and-butter clientele. But the provincial government has had other plans, effectively keeping the ride-sharing company out, making it the largest city in North America without a ride-sharing service. Vancouver has been in lock-step with the moves, declaring several moratoriums on issuing any new licenses to new taxi companies. But that could change. In March, British Columbia’s minister of transportation and infrastructure said Uber and Lyft would be able to operate in the province by Christmas. Vancouver city officials and the local Taxi Association have both signaled they might put up a fight.
Being one of the largest cities in the world, you would think Uber would love to break into Beijing. But its last attempt was a total failure. After taking a $2 billion loss in the Chinese market, Uber sold its operations to Didi Chuxing in 2016. While analysts believed Uber would benefit from the deal, Didi is the one riding high. The company now has a value of over $50 billion and is actively expanding into other countries. In 2017, it expanded into Brazil and opened a lab in Silicon Valley to develop autonomous cars. Uber might still reign supreme, but this might not be the last time we hear the name Didi either.
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