After a purportedly successful eight-month trial in Australia, Uber in the US is about to kick its more unruly passengers to the kerb – or at least threaten to.
Badly behaved passengers in American Uber vehicles will be banned from the service – and barred from using the app – based on repeated poor ratings from drivers.
Offences include rudeness, abuse, dumping rubbish – and presumably throwing up in the back seat – and urging drivers to break the speed limit.
Be nice and earn a reprieve
The good news is that riders will have multiple chances of cleaning up their act. Initially, they will receive notifications of poor performance, followed by advice on how to make themselves nice.
Passengers and drivers routinely give each other a rating out of five stars as to the satisfaction of the journey.
Since 2014, drivers have been on notice – via a memo from head office in San Francisco – that falling below an average of 4.6 stars could lead to them being barred from working for, or “partnering” with, the ride-share corporation.
“Deactivating the accounts of the drivers who provide consistently poor experiences ensures that Uber continues to be known for quality,” the memo said.
The company assured its drivers only about 3 per cent of drivers were in danger of falling below 4.6.
Now it’s time for passengers to be whipped into shape
“Respect is a two-way street, and so is accountability,” said Kate Parker, the company’s head of Safety Brand and Initiatives, in a prepared statement.
“Drivers have long been expected to meet a minimum rating threshold, which can vary city to city,” Ms Parker said.
“While we expect only a small number of riders to ultimately be impacted by ratings-based deactivations, it’s the right thing to do.”
Ms Parker said rowdy riders will receive tips on how to improve their ratings, such as encouraging polite behaviour.
“Riders will have several opportunities to improve their rating prior to losing access to the Uber apps,” she said.
The news was greeted with enthusiasm by the Independent Drivers Guild, which represents 70,000 rideshare drivers in New York City.
“Holding riders accountable for their behaviour on the Uber platform is an important safety measure to protect drivers as well as fellow riders who may book shared rides,” the guild’s spokeswoman Moira Muntz said in a statement.
“While most riders are respectful, banning riders who threaten driver safety, spew racist rants, and disrespect or damage our vehicles is the right thing to do.”
Last September, riders in Australia and New Zealand were put on notice by Uber: Clean up your act or you’re out.
So how many chunderers from Down Under have been banned by Uber in the past eight months?
According to Megan Smith, from the Australian Uber communications office, not a single soul.
Ms Smith said a number of notifications had been sent to offenders – including advice on how to be a better consumer – and this had led to an improvement in their behaviour and driver ratings.
Were dozens, hundreds or thousands of Australians subject to re-education? Were people sent final notices – as you get from power companies when you haven’t paid your bill?
Ms Smith didn’t know, and said Uber would get back to us. It did not. And that earns Uber two stars from us.