The many legal battles of Uber

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
totalITemsFound:
maxPaginationLinks: 10
maxPossiblePages:
startIndex:
endIndex:

The ride-sharing company is notorious for entering markets without adhering to required legal procedures. Does this justify the convenience and comfort that it provides? Illustration by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — For a company that has been around for less than a decade, Uber has been embroiled in so many legal battles that it has become difficult to keep up. The most recent case takes place in our own backyard, with a month-long suspension by the LTFRB sparking outrage in the general public. This suspension was brought about by the company’s insistence to accept new applications despite the LTFRB’s order to stop doing so.

For its consumers, Uber was a way of escaping the miserable and sometimes dangerous public transport options that we’re given. With traffic at its worst, an Uber could at least warrant us a fixed fare, a thoughtful driver, and a comfortable ride. But does the company’s track record justify the comfort that it provides?

Uber is available in over 60 countries and more than 500 cities, and since the company’s boom, it has faced a myriad of bans and lawsuits in Europe and the United States. Many of these, similar to what’s happening here, are a result of the company operating without securing proper licenses for its drivers.

While the pursuit for providing better public transportation is noble, the company’s brazen attitude and willful disobedience of the law puts it at risk of being a problematic and injurious vigilante.

 

In 2014, UberPop, an Uber product similar to UberX and commonly used in Europe, was barred from operating in Germany for not providing licenses and insurance to its drivers. This marked the first nationwide ban for the company. Yet, a day later, drivers continued to pick up passengers. In 2016, UberPop came under fire again, this time in Paris, where the company had to pay €800,000 for not complying with the Thevenoud Law, which required all chauffeurs to hold professional licenses. Again, the company continued to operate despite warnings.

Aside from operating illegally, Uber has also had to face questions of safety and ethics in the past years. In India, the company was banned from the capital and its screening process placed under major scrutiny as a woman was raped by a driver who had apparently been arrested for sexual assault 3 years prior. In San Francisco, an Uber driver was arrested after an accident resulting in the death of a 6-year old girl. Recently, the company has been struggling with the ethicality of its use of Greyball, a program that, though originally intended to keep competitors and shady individuals from misusing the app, has been helping Uber drivers dodge sting operations meant to catch those operating without proper licenses and permits. Meanwhile, internally, sexual harassment and discrimination claims have caused a major commotion, lending a hand in the stepping down of CEO Travis Kalanick.

Conceived in 2008 by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick, Uber was seen as a way to solve the taxi problem in San Francisco. Back then, it was next to impossible to quickly score a taxi in the city. Eventually, the idea of providing premium black cars developed into a vision of making transportation cleaner, safer, and more accessible through ride-sharing. While the pursuit for providing better public transportation is noble, the company’s brazen attitude and willful disobedience of the law puts it at risk of being a problematic and injurious vigilante.

For taxi drivers around the world, Uber is the company that is putting their livelihoods in jeopardy. Much of the commuting public find that it’s time for cabbies to go. This is especially true in the Philippines, where taxi drivers are notorious for their bad behavior, often found turning down passengers, tampering with the meter, and asking for dagdag. But the trouble with taxis goes much deeper than its drivers. It’s a messy combination of the daily boundary drivers must pay their operators and the heavy traffic that keeps them from actually reaching it. The boundary system also contributes to jeepney and bus drivers resorting to the reckless kaskasero-style driving just to get ahead of the competition.

With traffic at its worst, an Uber could at least warrant us a fixed fare, a thoughtful driver, and a comfortable ride. But does the company’s track record justify the comfort that it provides?

 

Even if the LTFRB can find a way to fix the boundary problem, there’s still the matter of congestion. In the US, one of Uber’s main tenets is to get more people into fewer cars. However, the reverse is happening for us here. Many opportunists use Uber to put up fleets of their own by purchasing vehicles and renting them out to drivers, much like how the local taxi system works. According to Yves Gonzalez, Uber Philippines government relations and public policy head, around 66,000 Uber cars travelled at least one trip in a year. In a metropolis where there are more vehicles than there are kilometers of road to accommodate them, it seems that the company that was supposed to save us is turning out to be a huge part of the problem.

Uber is notorious for entering markets first and figuring out all the legal procedures later. But it seems that this time they have made a major oversight, stepping into the big mess of Metro Manila’s transportation system.