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Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver III: How do I rate?

278 Responses

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  • BenWilson, in reply to goforit,

    None of the disputes are about deactivation. They're about arbitrary change and misleading inducement into contract.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Uber believes San Francisco autonomous vehicle testing rules do not apply to them either. Ooops.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19706 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Will be very interesting to hear the full details of this crash. Bears all the hallmarks of a driver falling asleep at the wheel.

    Will also be very interesting to hear whether the 3 cars that got smashed up will be covered, and by whom. A driver without commercial insurance is swinging in the wind, and Uber's "contingent liability policy" that no one has ever actually seen may be called into question here.

    But who you gonna sue? If these guys are distancing themselves from operating in NZ for real, and our systems are allowing that, that puts it all on the driver. I suggest the insurance companies themselves might want to test that one in court. They're free to contact me for detail on how to get that under way.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • goforit,

    I guess the Unlicensed Taxi Service Drivers Association has spoken. This is the prefect opportunity for the Minister of Transport to instruct both the NZTA and the NZ Police to fully do their jobs in respect to the actual law and not Uber's Law or any other organisation's Law. The reaction from the insurance companies should be secondary to the Transport Act as after all the insurance companies liabilities will be covered in policies held by the driver of the Uber vehicle.

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie,

    Is this New Zealand's first serious Uber crash? Whacking into a parked car is not a good look. Was the Uber driver involved fully licensed? Did the Uber vehicle have a COF?

    Given Uber's well-publicised disregard for NZ law, you might expect the Herald journo to have asked those questions.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1434 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to goforit,

    The reaction from the insurance companies should be secondary to the Transport Act as after all the insurance companies liabilities will be covered in policies held by the driver of the Uber vehicle.

    If they're a fully uncompliant driver (we'll probably know soon enough) then no, they will not. The insurance company will know that it was an Uber trip and refuse to pay out, and we'll be back to the unknown limbo of relying on Uber's supposed contingent liability policy that no one has ever actually seen.

    So I think it's likely that actually it will be insurance companies following this one up since otherwise they'll be paying for it.

    Of course what you say about how the NZTA and police should be doing more is true. But I'm not holding my breath.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Alfie,

    Is this New Zealand’s first serious Uber crash?

    I think we can be pretty damned sure that it is not. Statistically, that is extremely unlikely - Uber drivers have done over a million trips in NZ.

    But we have not heard about them. I suspect this is because the drivers are encouraged to commit insurance fraud and hide the fact that they were Uber driving at the time. A non-compliant driver is not actually that easy to spot.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    hide the fact that they were Uber driving at the time

    Which might partly explain the immediate response of the passengers in this case to leg it, despite their injuries! Though it’s also true that they were close to their destination, and that they were extremely drunk.
    The only reasons this case made the news seem to be that (i) the passengers’ injuries were serious enough to require medical treatment; and (ii) one passenger was related to someone vaguely famous.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1923 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to BenWilson,

    all the hallmarks of a driver falling asleep at the wheel

    Which is of course what you'd expect with an exploitative system forcing drivers to work longer hours than is safe -- so it's all the more suspicious that other cases haven't come to public attention before.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1923 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to linger,

    There are quite a few guys doing what I would consider excessive hours. The law mandates no more than 70 in a week driving passengers and Uber does claim to enforce this one. But the other mandated parts of work time are completely ignored by them. That includes the 14 hour a shift maximum, the mandatory 30 min breaks at least every 5.5 hours, the 10 hour gap between shifts, and (very importantly) the logging of work on any other jobs. You're not allowed to do 70 hours of work driving and any other paid work.

    But this is the precariat we're talking about - everyone has multiple jobs. I certainly would be pushing it to have gone to a 9am Friday lecture, and worked on assignments all day, then looked after children until about 7pm, after which I jumped in the car and drove until 4am, taking only one 30 min break at midnight. Just because I don't get paid to be student or a Dad doesn't mean it isn't mentally taxing.

    And any time I log out of Uber, it gives a nag screen urging you to just do a little bit more work to round out the hours or the money earned to some arbitrary multiple of $10. Seriously: "You're logging off after 5 hours and 25 minutes, why not make it 6 hours? Our passengers need you!!" Um...because it's illegal, dangerous, and I'm tired, is why.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    It's worth noting that Uber driving is probably more tiring than regular taxi driving too. In a busy night I don't get to stop at all until I actually log out. The system is efficient enough to give you back to back jobs right through 5 hours. So working that long feels like driving to Taupo without getting out of the car for a rest at any point, because it actually is exactly like that. I'm usually sore and drained.

    Taxis get a longer mandated time before they need to take a break. This is a recognition that they do actually spend a lot of the time not driving, and can get out and walk around. This simply does not apply to Uber, particularly since the price drop made people taken endless small discretionary trips. They have predicated your ability to make nearly as much as you did before the drop on you literally working 30% more. Considering that they were already pretty hard working drivers, now it's pretty much a job of being sweated.

    So when a passenger asks if I've been busy and I say yes, it's been completely relentless, the response that this must be a great thing has certainly worn thin. No, it's not a great thing, it's a necessary thing to make doing it worthwhile at all.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to BenWilson,

    If they’re a fully uncompliant driver (we’ll probably know soon enough) then no, they will not.

    I'm now certain (from inquiries made) that the vehicle was non-compliant. This story is certainly going to grow.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • goforit, in reply to BenWilson,

    But isn't amazing how the information around this crash has been hushed up. The information I am getting is mainly hearsay but I do get the impression it was passed off as a private car accident on the night of the accident but the details will come out eventually.

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Looks like Uber UK (if such an entity actually exists ! ;) ) may have some issues with local VAT (Value Added Tax - UK/EU wide)

    https://waitingfortax.com/2016/12/20/thats-one-uber-vat-problem/

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 1022 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to goforit,

    But isn’t amazing how the information around this crash has been hushed up.

    I'm not one to be overly conspiratorial about that. I'm sure Uber would like it to go away but police inquiries are not things conducted in public for good reason.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Ben Austin,

    We have very similar problems with GST here. AFAIK, IRD is still trying to get their heads around what to do about it, which isn't helpful to all the drivers who have to fill out GST returns every couple of months.

    Pretty sure ACC is not being paid by pretty much anyone. Which makes Ubers pushing of the guys back at ACC who got injured in the crash described above particularly egregious. As an organization they put one of the major causes of premature injury and death on the road in great numbers but the bill for all the injuries is on the taxpayer.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Are many Uber drivers GST registered now?

    There are two possibilities with GST:
    - Either, as Uber pretend, they are supplying a service to the driver who treats independently with the passenger. In that case:
    => If the driver is *not* GST registered, Uber has to collect GST on their margin (as a supplier of a service from offshore).
    => If the driver *is* GST registered, Uber has no GST liability (assuming they can claim not to be trading in NZ, which is debatable). If the fare is ever over $50, the driver must provide a GST invoice

    - However, if Uber are actually providing a service using drivers as contractors (or employees), they are liable to collect GST (and claim it back when paid to GST registered drivers).

    ACC: I believe that most of the ACC costs on light vehicles are recovered from the road user charge?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    To answer any such questions requires engagement from someone who knows what they are talking about. It is quite literally impossible to ever get that from Uber. They do not have front line staff who understand tax law or obligations at all. None of them have ever been drivers or show any understanding of the business at all.

    There is no second level support. You can't escalate problems. In fact, just getting someone who knows where NZ is takes several frustrating contacts if you try to deal online. There is no generic telephone number for general inquiries, nor any email address. You have to raise your issues via their app's robo-choices or the same on the website, or go down to the office and hijack some kid. If your question does not pertain to one of their preselected choices you have no other recourse, you just have to give it to the wrong person, argue for days until it gets eventually to the right person. This is every single interaction with Uber, btw. You start all over again on the next question.

    There is no official management that can be contacted here. In a recent court appearance, they sent the most senior staffer that we know of in NZ, and he claimed not to have the "power to authorize and bind" which is required for him to even present at that court. This suggest that there actually is no one in NZ who has that power. They either can't make choices or they are pretending they can't. Either way it deliberately leaves all the drivers in limbo.

    If you go down to the office and try to escalate your issue with the staff who are uniformly useless on all but the most obvious of issues, you will eventually be asked to leave the premises.

    This is how Uber does business in NZ. There's a reason they so seldom get interviewed in the news - the journalists literally struggle to find a way to contact them.

    This has been designed in. We have to assume everything about this mature and large predatory corporation is designed around their boilerplates for disruption around the world. They have situated their office in one of the hardest places to find a car park in all of Auckland. There is no reason whatsoever, given what happens in that office, that it could not be situated more cheaply and conveniently in an industrial location with excellent motorway access and untold parking. But they don't want drivers lingering. You can't pre-book a meeting, you have to turn up and take pot luck. You don't know if you will be 10 minutes or 2 hours.

    The staff themselves complain about the inconvenience of the location. It's hard for them to get to and to park too. This is all intentional. It's an office designed to sign up drivers and give the bum's rush to everyone else. It's not even permanently manned - they literally set it up each day and clear it out each night, as if the need to suddenly move locations might fall on them any time. I think that this is probably because that's happened elsewhere. Few drivers have ever ventured beyond the big locked doors at the back, where there seem to be office staff doing office things. It could, quite literally, not be where they are actually located, and none of us would even know. Their official headquarters are a law firm, and all of the directors do not live in NZ.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Have you tried filing a report to IRD for GST evasion?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I draw the line at getting involved in chasing people up for their taxes. This really is someone else's job. Similarly with chasing up whether this car crash has been properly investigated. If this country has reached the point where neither the IRD, nor the police are prepared to go toe-to-toe with a company because, um, fuck knows, well I can't do everything. I actually personally don't really care that much if people aren't paying their GST or are ripping off insurance companies. These organizations have billions to look after themselves. If they're giving Uber a free pass, then it's way above my pay grade.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • goforit,

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • goforit, in reply to BenWilson,

    If they’re giving Uber a free pass, then it’s way above my pay grade.

    Thats it in a nut shell, but in the meantime all the poeple not playing the game coreectly are fucking it for the operators who do play correctly.

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to goforit,

    in the meantime all the poeple not playing the game coreectly are fucking it for the operators who do play correctly

    I'm not sure if that's entirely true. If by the "operators who do play correctly" you mean the taxi industry generally, then the impact of Uber would seem to barely have been felt. It would seem revenues are barely down at all. If you meant "the drivers who did go through as much compliance as possible within Uber" then yes, the uncompliant Uber drivers did have a direct impact on them, competing directly in the same exact market, Uber customers. Their very existence was timed to coincide exactly with the pricing drops.

    But the way that Uber signs people up, those drivers could certainly be argued to not even really be aware of how much they're breaking the law. It's a pretty powerful sign up machine, which tells outright and barefaced lies through the mouths of the children it has working for it. This is not something most people would expect when being induced to work for a corporation that is being openly tolerated and indeed encouraged by the elected government. The first hint many ever get is when the letter from NZTA triggered by the vetting process warns them of the illegality of driving without the requisite licenses. But if they go to Uber to confront them with this letter, more barefaced lies are told about how they're working with the government on changing the grey areas of the law and that Uber will support them 100%. 100% support would be to not lie about this in the first place and pay for the drivers to have the right compliances if they really need drivers so badly. Uber's 100% support is to deny even operating a transport operation in NZ.

    So this argument that the only way to deal with Uber is to just turn away from them doesn't convince me. They have to be confronted directly. It's a can of worms that will only open from the inside. Those on the outside are both powerless and/or unwilling to do a damned thing.

    That's quite aside from my own personal interest in helping the MAIN group who are actually victims in all of this. The drivers themselves are the biggest victims here. The riders aren't - they get cheap rides and love it. Maybe one day one of them will get killed, but that happens in taxis too. Taxi drivers have hardly been affected, the way the heads of the industry told it to me. But drivers who were compliant are forced to compete directly and internally with those who aren't, and were mostly signed up more than 8 months ago and were never warned that the expense they went to would lead to this. The drivers who are not compliant are running huge risks of strong legal consequences. And both groups are poorly paid and worked hard, providing a service that is constantly being rated by riders as much higher than taxis.

    It takes time to break something like this apart. Time, energy, effort and money. Not lazily withdrawing and condemning the efforts of others from behind an anonymous internet handle.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • goforit, in reply to BenWilson,

    Yes I did mean the operators both in the taxi and private hire field. Uber has greatly decreased the volume of work to the taxi industry somewhere in the vincinity of 80% over the 24hr period, where in the earth do you think the bulk of Uber work came from it not new work, there are of course new passengers that enter the industry as passengers exit the industry. Where the ones that have fucked it up for us all is not the early entry of drivers to Uber as at that point the competation was actually good for all., its the newer Uber drivers who have flooded the market as non compliant operators paying less than there share to support our society. The strangest change I have noticed in the last 8 months to the general taxi work load is the increase in prebooked and pre agreed fares more in line with private hire work.

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 314 posts Report Reply

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