Uber, the self-appointed future of personal transportation, has achieved its massive growth thanks in part to an age-old trick: treating their workforce like shit. Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission announced that they’d be sending $20 million in refunds on Uber’s behalf to beleaguered drivers who’d been suckered into driving for the ride-sharing service through misleading claims about how financially advantageous it was to be an Uber driver.
The checks represent the culmination of a January 2017 settlement between the FTC and Uber, which resulted in a $20 million fine and tighter rules about the statements the company was allowed to make about itself. As for the specifics of what Uber did to earn such a fine, in a press release announcing the settlement, the FTC wrote:
Uber claimed on its website that uberX drivers’ annual median income was more than $90,000 in New York and over $74,000 in San Francisco. The FTC alleges, however, that drivers’ annual median income was actually $61,000 in New York and $53,000 in San Francisco. In all, less than 10 percent of all drivers in those cities earned the yearly income Uber touted. The FTC also alleges that Uber made high hourly earnings claims in job listings, including on Craigslist, but that the typical Uber driver failed to earn those advertised hourly amounts in various cities.
Additionally, the FTC found that Uber drivers who obtained loans on their cars through the company’s Vehicle Solutions Program “received worse rates on average than consumers with similar credit scores typically would obtain,” despite the company’s claims that the Vehicle Solutions Program offered more favorable terms than traditional financing options.
Per the FTC, drivers who were harmed by Uber will receive an average of $223 each. While a $20 million fine is a drop in the bucket for a company with a $62 billion valuation, and $223 a pretty crappy compensation for potentially being screwed out of tens of thousands of dollars, the very existence of these payments serves as a yet another reminder that Uber is not trying to make the world a better place. Instead, they’re trying to make the world a place where everyone has no choice but to use Uber. They attempt to pay their drivers as little as possible while simultaneously working to replace those drivers with self-driving cars (which, by the way, they may have developed with stolen trade secrets). It’s been strongly alleged they’ve used both encryption and the sorts of legal tactics you’d normally see from Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad, to obscure company activities from both regulators and law enforcement. Like, this is a company that literally had a division called Uber Hell, which was tasked with spying on the movements of Lyft drivers and using that data to steal Lyft’s business. Currently, they’re being investigated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for gender discrimination in the workplace, and one of the first things their new Chief Operating Officer, Barney Hartford, made the news for was making racist comments on a conference call.
While Uber’s ubiquity makes it seem like some medieval dragon that cannot be slain, in truth, the company is still struggling to turn a profit. While they managed to make more money than they spent during the first quarter of this year, they did so by selling off a chunk of their business to outside investors. Here’s to hoping that, in its brazen pursuit of profitability, Uber will eventually sell itself off into nonexistence.