Rachel Cunliffe

Uber has become the labour market’s scapegoat

The offensives against Uber are coming thick and fast. In October, a UK court ruled against the ride-sharing giant in favour of two drivers demanding minimum wages and vacation pay, even though Uber is a platform, not an employer. At the moment, the company is on trial in the EU, where judges are trying to determine what it actually is after European lawmakers (primarily in France) dragged it to court. And on Monday, Uber lost a case in Quebec on whether its drivers were employees or contractors. 

Last week, it emerged that the fight is still raging in the US too, where Uber has just settled a lawsuit for $20 million over claims it inflated estimates of how much prospective drivers could earn if they signed up and misled them about the cost of car financing deals. The Federal Trade Commission argued Uber made ‘false, misleading, or unsubstantiated claims regarding driver earnings and its Vehicle Solutions Program’. Uber advertised that drivers could earn between $16 and $29 an hour depending on the city, whereas in some cases only around 10 percent of drivers were actually earning that amount. Rather than go to court this time, Uber settled, and though the company did not admit the allegations, it did say it had made improvements to the driver experience.

First, let me say that I believe comprehensive and accurate information is vital for any job agreement. The internet has levelled countless playing fields by providing free access to information that used to be guarded jealously, and that’s a philosophy all tech companies should be championing. Gig economy platforms work through information sharing – users get detailed reviews about their providers, and providers can decide which platform best suits their needs.

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