by Bill Snyder

Five Good Reasons to Delete the Uber App Right Now

Nov 26, 20143 mins
Consumer Electronics

Popular ride-sharing service Uber bullies its rivals, intimidates women and gouges customers on fares. Now's the time to fight back by deleting the Uber app from your phone, according to contributor Bill Snyder.

Take a bus, take a train, take a cab — just don’t take Uber.

The app-based ridesharing service has a dismal record of price gouging, questionable driver screening and bullying business tactics. It even threatened a reporter who dared to criticize the company. Uber simply doesn’t deserve your business.

Uber has received a lot of bad press lately, and it’s time for consumers to step up. If you think the company’s actions stink, you can do more than just refuse to use the service. Take an extra step and delete the Uber app from your smartphone. If enough people remove the app, the company might actually notice and do something to clean up its act.

Here are specifics on those reasons to delete Uber.

Price Gouging. When demand for the service spikes, Uber raises its prices under the assumption that it will encourage more drivers to take to the streets and thus level out supply and demand. That might be acceptable if the price increases were modest, but during a blizzard in New York last winter, riders were hit with fares in the hundreds of dollars for relatively short rides. Uber users in other cities are currently reporting similar episodes. 

Bullying Tactics: Competition is a good thing, but Uber went way over the line in its campaign to defeat Lyft, its major rival. Uber aggressively poached Lyft drivers, sabotaged its fund-raising efforts, and requested and then canceled more than 5,000 rides to disrupt Lyft’s service.

Over-the-Top Threats: Uber exec Emil Michael, thinking he was off the record, blithely mentioned plans to spend about a million dollars on a team of “opposition researchers” to dig up dirt on journalists who write anything negative about the company. He also said it might be a good idea to check out the private life of a female columnist.

Invasions of Privacy: Another female journalist who was critical of the company was tracked by Uber execs using a so-called “God’s View,” which allows the company to see a history of customers’ rides and destinations. It’s unclear just how many riders were tracked using the God’s View. After that incident was exposed, Uber published a version of its privacy policy that prohibits “all employees at every level from accessing a rider’s or driver’s data.” That’s nice, but a more detailed version of the privacy policy clearly states that even after you close your account the company keeps your personal information. (Tip of my Giant’s cap to Gigaom’s Jeff John Roberts, who noticed this first.)

Safety: All of the ride services, including Uber, Lyft and Sidecar, have an Achilles heel: the skill and history of their freelance drivers. In theory the drivers are checked out; in practice those checks are not always enough, according to the District Attorneys of Los Angeles and San Francisco. There’s also some uncertainty about the amount and type of insurance drivers carry, when it’s in effect and when it’s not. None of that makes me want to catch rides with these people.

The taxi services in many cities, including here in San Francisco, aren’t very efficient, and that’s a big reason why ride-sharing services thrive. Uber, however, is an arrogant and greedy company that doesn’t deserve its success. If you agree, it’s time to delete that Uber app.