He left the company after claiming that Uber’s culture left him feeling “powerless to question or change its ways” and that if he contested, it would “put his family’s safety at risk” (The Guardian). Ultimately, leading to his decision to release the company’s secret files.
The information he has given showcased, in intricate detail, how Uber defied laws, deceived police, exploited violence against drivers, and furtively lobbied countries to intrusively build itself. Uber has even admitted that it did these illegal acts, masking their intensity by calling them ‘mistakes’, but still asks for our forgiveness.
One of the company’s ambassadors, Jill Hazelbaker, called the public to judge what Uber has achieved in the last five years and what it can achieve in the future - instead of focussing on how the company broke the law.
Here in Australia, the under-handed way that Uber represented itself and the lies it told about the Australian taxi industry, was not lesser than what it did overseas. Actually it was probably worse.
Further, more documents have been released which show that Uber sought to lobby Australian governments, specifically the industry regulator, in all States and Territories, to legalise its illegal operation in Victoria.
Guardian Australia reports that the documents reveal claims made within the company that it had struck a secret deal with Victoria’s taxi authority.
Emails show in early September 2014 that, Uber’s policy head for the Asia Pacific, Jordan Condo, met with the chair of Victoria’s Taxi Services Commission, Graeme Samuel – a former chair of the Australian competition regulator described by Uber staff as “a staunch pro-competition advocate”.
“An agreement was reached [with the TSC] that will create a process to accredit uberX drivers in the coming months with a plan to license ridesharing in early 2015,” Uber staff said in a weekly email roundup of lobbying activity around the globe.
However, Samuels told Guardian Australia: “There was no secret deal done with Uber or anyone else associated with rideshare services.”
Guardian Australia also reports that Uber hired lobbyist John Richardson, a former senior Labor staffer, to petition the New South Wales government on its In addition, claims emerged it was working with the NSW Labor opposition to write a bill to legalise Uber in that State.
According to a 10 July 2014 email that Richardson sent to a colleague, the former adviser to the Hawke, Keating and Carr governments was to “provide public affairs support to Uber for the state of New South Wales and advice regarding the rest of Australia”.
Uber knew and fully understood that it was launched illegally in Australia, so it leaned on governments to change the law.
Yes, that’s right! Uber, for lack of other words, wanted a free pass when it came to the law!
And yes, Uber had and still has the money, power and means to wiggle its way into many countries. But where were our laws or preventative measures to stop this?
Where were those in our governments worldwide, in our countries, who could have and should have, done their jobs? Hiding under their desks, burying their heads in the sand, because a big loud entity was making a noise, disrupting the taxi and hire car industry, and they didn’t know what to do to curb them.
Lawyer Michael Donnelly, who is leading the Maurice Blackburn class action against Uber, told Guardian Australia: “We allege that the commencement of Uber in Australia, operating illegally, had a devastating effect on the holders of taxi licences in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.”
“Taxi licence holders were often from working-class backgrounds and had invested enormous sums of money to acquire taxi licences in a full and regulated market.
The practices of Uber that we allege were illegal and caused the value of those licences to be severely impacted.”
In a preliminary ruling in the case, Associate Justice Patricia Matthews found there were reasonable grounds to suggest that Uber was operating illegally in Melbourne from 23 January 2014 and illegally in NSW, Queensland and WA from 14 April 2014.
She said that “the attempts made by the defendants [Uber] to avoid enforcement were an aspect of building scale, garnering public support, and growing the business (including by attracting and retaining UberX partners) until they had managed to flip a city”.
“I accept the plaintiffs’ submission that ridesharing offences were being committed systemically and on a large scale,” she said. “Even if at trial it is found otherwise, there are reasonable grounds for making this finding as part of this application.”
The ruling has allowed taxi licence operators to use documents that Uber claimed didn’t have to be disclosed because they contained legal advice. But the judge found that some of the documents could be used in court because they contained advice on how to circumvent the law.
Guardian Australia reports that “Uber’s ultimate success in Australia had a devastating effect on holders of taxi licences, and “presents a serious case study of regulatory failure”, according to Michael Donnelly, a principal lawyer at Maurice Blackburn.
“In the future, state government regulators have to be far more resistant to large private companies entering the market and seeking to bully them in the way that Uber did.”
But how can we do this when Uber has our leaders in their pockets. World-renowned leaders from places like France, USA, Britain, and Australia have all fallen to the money and power Uber can, and has provided. When will it stop?
In conclusion, the ubiquity of Uber today was achieved on a premise of unfairness and, let us not forget, illegal actions. But unfortunately, government officials, industry regulators, and other authoritative bodies let us down when they masked Uber’s behaviour. Still, maybe with some urgency and fairy dust, we can work together to help those treated adversely.
This is not to say that all hope is lost. It is not. We can still fight back - and we must!
Read more articles in our July 2022 Issue here.
DRIVE NOW reports on various topics regarding the