Uber Waits Annoy U.K. Passengers After Drivers Quit in Droves
(Bloomberg) -- Uber Technologies Inc. is suffering from an exodus of U.K. drivers to other ride-hailing and delivery apps, leading to longer waiting times and frustrated customers.
The App Drivers and Couriers Union found that 49% of drivers in a survey of 1,212 members switched to other sources of income in the last 18 months. Drivers who spoke to Bloomberg News complained about Uber boosting service charges to 25% from 20% for some, prompting many to work as couriers for proliferating delivery businesses, or rivals that charge lower fees, like Bolt Technology OU.
“Lots of drivers have left, and when I’m out working on a Saturday the customers are telling me they are waiting for hours,” says Amar Ullah, an Uber driver in Glasgow. He said drivers he knows are now working as couriers for Uber Eats, Just Eat Takeaway.com NV, or Amazon.com Inc. “They’re happy. They say, ‘I’m making a hundred pounds in a few hours. We don’t need to listen to passengers. We don’t need taxi insurance, and it’s safer also.’”
Customers have complained on social media about longer wait times and higher fares during peak hours as the lack of drivers triggers surge pricing. Hafsah Noor, heading to a graduation party in east London, said the wait time for her ride quadrupled to 20 minutes after booking. “I canceled to rebook and when I rebooked, I got booked in with the same driver again for 20 minutes,” she said.
Uber, which has grappled with complaints about how it treats drivers for years, has suffered shortages globally. The company said in April it would spend $250 million on bonuses and other incentives to attract more drivers in the U.S., contributing to a wider-than-expected loss last quarter. Uber “invested in recovery by investing in drivers,” Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi said at the time.
Labor shortages have proliferated worldwide during the pandemic, with workers requiring better incentives to return to work. Drivers initially left the industry because the risk of infection made taking passengers dangerous. Uber also had said that in 2020 many drivers quit because they couldn’t count on getting enough trips, but that ride requests began to outstrip supply this year.
“We are encouraging 20,000 new drivers to sign up in order to meet rider demand as cities get moving again,” Uber said in an emailed statement. “We are confident that we will continue to grow our driver base as Uber is the only operator to provide all drivers with the rights and protections they are entitled to - a guaranteed wage, holiday pay and a pension.”
Uber’s treatment of drivers came to a head in February when a landmark U.K. Supreme Court ruling forced the company to recognize a group of drivers as “workers,” entitling them to a minimum wage, vacation pay and other benefits. Similar claims followed, and ultimately Uber said it would extend the classification to all of its U.K. drivers.
Even with the new perks, London-based driver Abdurzak Hadi said the service charge, paired with mounting costs for car rental and insurance, have made it “not feasible” for many drivers. The drivers who spoke to Bloomberg also reported increasing amounts of abuse from customers. “At the end, if it’s not rewarding, it’s easy to walk away.”
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