Uber Technologies has placed an unfair restriction on the types of vehicles that can be used by drivers for certain service levels, in particular for cars deemed eligible for the company’s more selective, higher-paying Uber BlackSUV program, a proposed class action claims.
The plaintiff, a New Jersey Uber driver, alleges in the 11-page suit that revisions made in 2019 to the list of SUVs allowed by the ride-hailing company in its Uber BlackSUV program have caused affected drivers to lose hundreds or thousands in income.
According to the suit, Uber maintains a “high degree” of control over drivers’ work, affecting directly the rates drivers can charge and the manner in which they’re paid. Further, Uber prohibits drivers from transporting passengers outside of its platform, and penalizes those who reject potential rides, the case relays. Even broader, Uber drivers are not allowed to control the route they drive, the suit says, meaning routes taken to a destination must match with the company’s or the worker will be penalized for taking an “inefficient” way.
Per the complaint, Uber exercises further control over drivers’ work by dictating the make, model and year of vehicles the company deems acceptable for transporting passengers within its service levels—UberX, UberComfort, UberXL, UberBlack and Uber BlackSUV. According to the lawsuit, drivers are able to earn more per ride when they’re placed in a higher service level, meaning an UberBlack driver will, for instance, earn more than a worker making an identical trip for UberXL.
Although Uber publicizes the specific vehicles it deems eligible for its UberBlack and Uber BlackSUV service levels, the company “does not adhere to these representations,” and instead “unilaterally changes” its requirements to the detriment of drivers who rely on the defendant’s public statements when leasing or buying a vehicle, the plaintiff alleges.
According to the lawsuit, Uber changed in September 2019 its vehicle requirements for Uber BlackSUV eligibility, removing the Acura MDA, Audi Q7, Chevrolet LTZ, Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition (non-Platinum series), Infinity QX60, Mercedes GL Class, Nissan Armada and Toyota Sequoia. At the time, the case says, Uber did not simply stop accepting new registrations of these vehicle models for the Uber BlackSUV service level. Instead, the defendant chose to “cut off all drivers using these vehicles from the ability to offer rides” at the BlackSUV level, thereby relegating them to lower-paying service levels, per the complaint.
The plaintiff, an Uber driver since 2015, says he began researching vehicle options in 2017 in order to work in Uber’s BlackSUV program and thereby increase his income. Back then, Uber communicated with the man that 18 SUV models were eligible, the suit says. The following year, the plaintiff bought for more than $71,000 a black 2017 Chevy Tahoe with a black leather interior in order to drive for the Uber BlackSUV program, the case says.
In August 2019, however, Uber informed the plaintiff via email that as of the following September, a Chevy Tahoe would no longer be eligible for the Uber BlackSUV service level, the lawsuit claims. In September, the plaintiff’s ability to access the Uber BlackSUV service level through the defendant’s app was terminated, according to the suit. Since then, the man has continued to drive his Chevy Tahoe for the UberBlack service level yet has seen his earnings reduced by more than $200 per month.
“As a result of Uber’s conduct, Plaintiff suffered damages, including without limitation and by example only: loss of revenues, loss of employment opportunity, embarrassment, humiliation, and other emotional and mental distress,” the complaint claims.
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