An explosive report by WJLA, the ABC affiliate in Washington, indicates that racketeering practices are commonly being employed by Uber drivers to deliberately manipulate the technology’s ‘surge-pricing’ function. By cooperatively agreeing to turn-off the app at busy departure sites, the drivers trick the technology into believing that there is a shortage of drivers, which sends fare prices for passengers skyrocketing, often by $20, $30, or more.
And it looks like Taste of Country fans — held at Sahlens Field tonight — are about to be prime targets of the practice. Local followers of technology companies (and their stock prices) are watching with bated breath to gauge how riders will react. National reaction to the scandalous practice has some stock market analysts predicting that Uber’s mammoth equity valuation may tumble.
When the outlet first reported on the practice, Uber said it wasn’t a widespread issue and claimed that they had safeguards to prevent it from happening elsewhere. But that doesn’t jive with the experience of riders across the country, who are complaining that they too have likely been victims of ‘surge-pricing’ rackets organized by local groups of drivers.
Word of the scandal is angering many Uber riders, some of whom are pledging to use locally owned alternatives to be assured of fair pricing.
But Uber has much more to worry about than a racketeering scandal. The company’s brand is far more vulnerable to its shocking safety record.
“Almost every day you hear about someone getting raped somewhere in America by an Uber driver,” explains Becca Sobieski, a 23-year-old woman from Lancaster. “You never know who you’re gonna get. It makes a lot of sense to just save the phone number of your trusted local cab company, and make a quick call.”
“It could save your life,” she adds.
Most jurisdictions — outside of New York City — do not have evolved regulatory frameworks governing ride-hailing technologies — which leaves consumers vulnerable to price gouging and anti-competitive behavior.
It’s unclear if Taste of County fans will be smart enough (or sober enough) to realize that they can save big — sometimes more than $100 — just by calling their local cab company.