Life Tech Uber named among ‘best apps’ despite legal woes

Uber named among ‘best apps’ despite legal woes

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A tech upstart with a knack for angering regulators, Uber has been included on Apple’s annual list of the top apps for 2014.

The online taxi service made it into the “best app” category for the iTunes app store despite a slew of international controversies.

The San Francisco-based app allows customers to hail conventional taxis via their smartphones, but controversially it also allows non-professional drivers to sell rides in their private vehicles at half the price of a regular cab.

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Uber launched in 2009 and has expanded at breakneck speed ever since, now operating in more than 200 cities across 45 countries, including Australia.

The car service received more money from venture capitalists than any privater company this year and is now valued at almost $50 billion — more than double what investors valued the company at just six months ago.

But the easy-to-use app has been plagued by legal trouble, with many jurisdictions around the world considering bans and tougher laws to prevent private citizens from rivalling the strictly regulated taxi industry.

Indian taxi driver Uber rape
Indian Uber driver accused of rape leaves court on Monday. Photo: Getty

India’s capital territory banned the app on Monday after a passenger accused one of its drivers of rape.

A young company executive in her mid-20s said she was raped by an Uber driver in Delhi.

Local media reports blamed Uber for failing to do a background check on Shiv Kumar Yadav, a 32-year old taxi driver, who had spent several months in jail on a separate rape charge before being acquitted in 2012.

Uber has been banned from operating in Delhi and will be blacklisted from providing transport services in future.

Dutch judges have also banned the popular ride-sharing service and threatened the company with fines of up to $133,100.

A court in the Netherlands on Monday ordered Uber to stop selling private car rides, for which it charges a 20 per cent commission on each trip.

A defiant Uber reacted in a statement by saying it “will continue to offer UberPOP”.

Monday’s decision “is simply the first step in a long-running judicial battle”, the company said.

In September, courts in Berlin and Hamburg ruled the company did not comply with German laws and officially banned the service from using unlicensed drivers.

US state Nevada also issued a statewide ban last week.

The company heeded the Nevada ban, but its usual response to bans and bad press has been confrontational.

In November, Uber senior vice president Emil Michael reportedly said he wanted to spend $1 million on hiring “opposition researchers” to dig up dirt on the personal lives and families of journalists who criticised his company.

Uber has also been accused of misusing its clients’ private data.

A disgruntled former user published this post in September saying he quit the app after the company allegedly showed his name and exact location on a computer screen at a launch party in Chicago.

Uber’s inclusion on Apple’s favourites list is a glimmer of positive coverage amidst a mass of negative reports.

—with AAP.