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Uber And Lyft Spar Over Alleged Ride Cancellations

It's not all pink mustaches and fist bumps in the business of on-demand car services.
Jose A. Iglesias
It's not all pink mustaches and fist bumps in the business of on-demand car services.

Uber and Lyft are battling for customers looking for rides via smartphones, but maybe not everyone is fighting fairly.

CNNMoney reports that Uber employees have ordered and canceled more than 5,000 Lyft rides since October, according to Lyft's data.

"And it's not just a rogue employee or two," CNN reports. "Lyft claims 177 Uber employees around the country have booked and canceled rides in that time frame."

With both services, users have to create a profile to order rides on demand with the company's app. Canceled rides can tie up drivers, causing them to lose time and money driving to fake customers.

CNN notes "there was nothing to suggest" that the scam was commissioned by Uber's corporate office or that it was even aware of the canceled ride requests.

A statement from Uber, posted by The New York Times, called Lyft's claims "baseless and simply untrue." It goes on to suggest that Uber has been a victim of nearly 13,000 fraudulent trip requests by Lyft drivers and employees:

"But instead of providing the long list of questionable tactics that Lyft has used over the years, we are focusing on building and maintaining the best platform for both consumers and drivers."

This isn't the first time Uber has been accused of using such tactics. Gawker reported in January that Uber employees were scheduling and canceling rides with New York competitor Gett. (Gawker cites screenshots "showing multiple instances of Uber staffers using dummy Gett accounts for the sole purpose of canceling rides as diversions.")

Both Uber and Lyft continue to seek out new markets (they were approved to operate in Virginia this month), though not every city or country is welcoming.

This startup battle "is lopsided," the Wall Street Journal reports: Uber "operates in nearly three times as many markets as Lyft" and has "four times as many employees and five times the amount of funding from investors."

But as NPR's Elise Hu has reported, rapid growth leads to growing pains, as the service outpaces existing laws.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dana Farrington is a digital editor coordinating online coverage on the Washington Desk — from daily stories to visual feature projects to the weekly newsletter. She has been with the NPR Politics team since President Trump's inauguration. Before that, she was among NPR's first engagement editors, managing the homepage for NPR.org and the main social accounts. Dana has also worked as a weekend web producer and editor, and has written on a wide range of topics for NPR, including tech and women's health.
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