Indian rape victim sues Uber in US court

The Indian woman whose alleged rape by an Uber driver led to the service being shut down in New Delhi has now sued the car-hailing platform in San Francisco, according to Reuters. The woman, who asked the federal court to protect her identity, said Uber’s service was the “modern day equivalent of electronic hitchhiking”. Uber, which recently reopened its Delhi services after applying for a taxi license, has repeatedly promised to improve its driver-vetting procedures in India. The woman wants unspecified damages from Uber, as well as the installation of in-car cameras and the creation of local customer support centers. The driver, who denies the attack, is currently on trial for rape and kidnapping.

Uber returns to Delhi after grudgingly applying for taxi license

Uber, the tech firm that is most definitely not a taxi company, no sir, has applied for a taxi license in New Delhi so its drivers can legally return to the roads there. However, it’s restarted its services without waiting for the license to be granted.

The taxi-esque outfit said in a blog post that it had applied for a Radio Taxi license in the Indian capital “to reflect our commitment to providing riders with more options for safe and reliable transportation, including the ability to request a Radio Taxi on-demand.”

Reuters reported that Uber resumed services in New Delhi on Friday, but quoted a senior transport official as saying this was not permitted – Uber should be waiting for city authorities to grant the license, which may still not happen, or may only happen after alterations to the application.

New Delhi officials banned Uber in December following a driver’s rape of a passenger, saying Uber’s drivers did not have the proper licenses to provide taxi services. Uber subsequently suspended its operations in the city – a rare thing indeed – in order to review its driver vetting procedures.

However, Uber said in its Thursday post that it thought the New Delhi authorities should rather follow the “Kolkata model,” meaning the decision of a police chief in a Kolkata suburb to designate Uber as an IT company, not a taxi firm.

“We believe this is the progressive model that ultimately puts the safety of consumers first, while recognizing the power of new technologies like Uber that will make city transportation safer,” the tax-hailing platform provider wrote.

Uber added that it had toughened up its driver vetting procedures in New Delhi, adding extra layers of screening.

Uber adds $2 surcharge to each yellow taxi ride it hails in NYC

On Christmas Eve, Uber announced a significant change to its Uber Taxi pricing in New York City. The fare increase is simple: Any UberT hailed will come with a $2 “booking fee,” charged to the credit card on file. The new policy goes into effect today.

UberT is different from other Uber cars. Uber Taxi cars are fully medallioned yellow (or, in Manhattan’s far reaches and outer boroughs, green) cabs. Riders who hail one through the app pay a traditional metered fare to the driver, no different from any other yellow taxi in the five boroughs. Essentially, Uber could hail a taxi for free — especially handy for hailing cabs for friends or family if you don’t want to cover their ride on your credit card — and now it costs $2.

The pricing change is likely to push customers to Uber’s other car services, like UberX, which charge directly through the app. In fact, the second half of the announcement takes the opportunity to “introduce UberX, the low-cost Uber.”

In an email sent to customers, Uber says the new fee is “on behalf of yellow and boro taxi drivers who utilize the Uber platform,” although the fee is collected by Uber and the driver does not get a portion of the fee. I’ve reached out to Uber and will update the post if I hear back.

(Side note: When asking about tipping policies last month, Uber disingenuously pointed me to its Uber Taxi policy, because it’s the only Uber service in which the driver can collect a tip from a credit card, because Uber doesn’t handle the transaction.)

The text of the email is below:

Thanks for riding UberT. Starting today, December 25, all completed UberT trips will be subject to a $2 booking fee. This fee is a small charge added to uberT trips on behalf of yellow and boro taxi drivers who utilize the Uber platform. The fee will be collected through the app and billed to the card on file at the end of your ride. You will continue to pay the metered fare directly to your driver.

We want to take this opportunity to introduce uberX, the low-cost Uber. Cars on uberX are hybrids or mid-range vehicles in a variety of colors, and with rates cheaper than an NYC taxi, there’s no better way to get around! For more information, visit our city page here.

Feel free to contact us with any questions at [email protected]

Uber on,

Team Uber NYC

Uber gets investment from Baidu to aid China push, report claims

The Chinese web giant Baidu will buy a stake in Uber worth up to $600 million, according to sources quoted by Bloomberg. The ride-booking company, which raised $1.2 billion earlier this month to give it a valuation of $40 billion, is currently pushing into China, where it faces stiff competition from local rivals such as the Tencent-backed Didi Dache. Analyst Li Yujie told Bloomberg that cooperation between the companies could see Uber use Baidu’s mobile payment system in China. Integration seems to be the name of the game there – Didi Dache is conveniently tied in with Tencent’s WeChat messaging service, for example.

Uber halts Delhi services to review driver vetting procedures

Uber has suspended its operations in New Delhi, India, so it can conduct a review of its driver vetting and rider feedback mechanisms. This follows the rape of a passenger by an Uber driver and marks a rare occasion on which the taxi firm has done what a local regulator tells it to – the Delhi transport department banned Uber on Monday. In a Thursday blog post, Uber’s India office said it was “implementing measures to ensure that critical rider feedback is escalated immediately and immediate action is taken in every instance,” and “evaluating additional screening options to include background checks on all our driver partners in India above and beyond what is currently required.”

Uber banned in Spain & Thailand, sued in Portland, hassled in Rio

On Tuesday, both Thailand and Spain banned Uber. You know the drill by now: The company’s drivers don’t have taxi permits and/or insurance, and the authorities have had an earful from furious cab drivers who do have to pay for such things. Yesterday it was authorities in Delhi that told the firm to stop operating locally, after an Uber driver allegedly raped a passenger. Meanwhile, the cities of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and Portland, Oregon, have also told the firm to stay off the roads (via police complaint and lawsuit respectively), and an Uber driver in San Francisco has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for driving over and killing a six-year-old girl.

Uber hit with French “deceptive practices” fine and UK tax complaint

Uber keeps getting disrupted by European laws. On top of those recent Dutch driver arrests, the U.S. quasi-taxi outfit has now been fined €100,000 ($128,000) in France for falsely marketing its paid-for UberPop (a.k.a. UberX) offering as a carpooling service, and told by the Parisian court to warn its drivers that they face “criminal conviction.” Meanwhile, in the U.K. transport authorities have referred Uber to the tax authorities for, unlike other taxi firms, not paying any tax in the U.K. (Revenues go to a Dutch subsidiary that’s owned by a Bermuda subsidiary.) Indian authorities are also on the firm’s case over tax, so at least it’s not just Europe.

Uber drivers arrested in Amsterdam as service’s licensing woes continue

Four Uber drivers were arrested in Amsterdam on Sunday for flouting a ban on unlicensed taxi services. According to local reports, they may be fined up to €4,200 ($5,329) or more if they break the law again. Bloomberg reported Uber as saying the crackdown was “unjustified and disproportional.” One report suggested the firm might pay drivers’ fines in some cases. In Berlin, where Uber has frequently come up against similar laws, the company has now cut its UberPop/UberX fares to such a low point that the services count as ride-sharing rather than profit-making taxi services, thus bypassing taxi licensing regulations – but destroying any incentive for people to drive for it.