Lawsuit accuses Uber of ripping off drivers, paying them smaller fares than what passengers pay – Los Angeles Times

The hits maintain coming for Uber — and never the great type.

The embattled journey-share firm, already buffeted by a barrage of lawsuits and public-relations crises, is being sued once more. This time, a driver is alleging that the Silicon Valley behemoth’s fare construction intentionally shortchanges drivers.

In the grievance, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, attorneys for the plaintiff say they search to have the case designated as a category-motion on behalf of all Uber drivers in California.

At the middle of the lawsuit is Uber’s use of upfront pricing. Introduced in main markets final yr, the function offers passengers with the price of their journey earlier than they summon a automotive. Uber pitched the fare mannequin as a strategy to improve transparency and handle anger over sudden price surges when demand for rides spiked.

“There’s no complicated math and no surprises: Passengers can just sit back and enjoy the ride,” the corporate stated in a press assertion.

However, in accordance with the lawsuit, Uber additionally took the change as a chance to tug off “an active, extensive, methodical scheme … to defraud drivers.”

The lawsuit alleges that Uber primarily calculates two fares for every experience — one charged to the passenger and a less expensive one used to find out the driving force’s pay. Uber, in response to the go well with, then can pocket the distinction.

The discrepancy between the 2 costs violates the phrases of an settlement Uber drivers should signal, specifying that they may obtain the quantity charged to passengers minus a proportion the corporate retains.

In California, Uber usually takes 25%.

To bolster their claims, attorneys Bobby Saadian and Daniel Miller — representing driver Sophano Van — allowed The Times to evaluation pictures of receipts that drivers and passengers acquired from three rides.

In one, a rider paid $54.80 to be introduced from the Fairfax district in Los Angeles to LAX. But Uber used a fare of $43.55 when calculating the quantity it forwarded to the driving force, which got here to $32.89.

The Times couldn’t independently confirm that the receipts corresponded to the identical journey, though the route and occasions appeared to match.

A spokeswoman for Uber declined to touch upon the lawsuit. She acknowledged that the calculations used to find out what passengers are charged and what drivers are paid can differ.

“Riders comply with a fare upfront, whereas drivers earn based mostly on the precise size of the journey plus relevant surge and promotions,” the spokeswoman wrote in a press release to The Times. “There are times when the two differ, and as we’ve noted before, the rider fare is often lower than what a driver earns for the same trip.”

Uber’s software program algorithms calculate the fare charged to riders based mostly totally on the space of the journey and an estimated time it should take, in addition to elements similar to what number of drivers are within the space on the time, the corporate stated when it unveiled upfront pricing.

But Uber’s packages can overestimate or underestimate the space or period of a journey, resulting in passenger fares which might be out of line with the truth, based on the corporate.

The lawsuit is just the newest authorized hassle for the corporate.

For years, Uber has been preventing class-motion lawsuits that search to redefine the employment standing of drivers in California and elsewhere from unbiased contractors to full-fledged staff. A ruling towards the corporate would upend an important underpinning of its enterprise mannequin, because it must pay drivers advantages and reimburse them for fuel and different bills.

A $100-million settlement proposed by the corporate was rejected final yr by a federal decide in San Francisco as inadequate.

And Uber has been in injury-management mode over a sexual harassment allegation from a former worker that led customers to drop the service’s app from their telephones. Google additionally has sued over alleged theft of commerce secrets and techniques, and Uber’s senior vice chairman of engineering lately resigned for not disclosing one other sexual harassment accusation.

Follow @joelrubin on Twitter

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