Uber responds to allegations it took 51 percent of a fare


Following an investigation by Uber and our confirmation with the driver, the payout earned by the driver was R113.13 which is 76.43 percent of the total trip value of R148. Therefore, Uber’s take of this ride was 23.56 percent.

As mentioned, we independently confirmed that the driver received R113.13 from the trip. The driver couldn’t comment on why they were shown a total of R71 during the trip.

The platform did not comment on the driver’s allegation that it takes up to 35 percent of a fare from some trips.

The original story follows below

On Monday, drivers from Bolt and Uber downed tools in protest of certain aspects of ride-sharing apps. Drivers are fed up with the large portion of ride fees the likes of Uber take as well features on Uber such as the Trip Radar.

Drivers are fed up with the company’s reluctance to engage with them in a meaningful capacity. From my interactions with Uber drivers, I’ve learned that the platform offers very few ways to engage with management and in the sessions where drivers are engaged, platitudes and empty promises are on the menu.

The demands of many drivers boil down to one thing – Uber’s take from rides is too high.

So on Monday after work, I booked an Uber from Parkhurst to Cresta in Johannesburg. This trip would usually cost R75, but given that drivers were protesting and there were fewer drivers on the road, surge pricing added R70 to that fee.

That extreme surge pricing aside for a moment, I proceeded to speak to the driver about the protest and what grievances Uber drivers have. In the interest of protecting the driver from being targeted by Uber we’ll refer to them simply as Blake.

“We want Uber to lower the amount of money it takes. At the moment Uber is taking up to 35 percent of the money we make on every ride,” Blake told me. “We can’t survive, petrol has gone up so many times and Uber doesn’t change its prices. We don’t want Uber to charge our riders more, we want their percentage to be lower.”

Until this point, I was under the impression that the company was taking between 20 and 25 percent of all rides booked using its app. Having now heard that the firm is allegedly taking as much as 35 percent, I was alarmed.

But percentages don’t tell the real story so I asked Blake how much they were making.

At booking, the fee for the ride was R143, and Blake told me that they were allegedly expected to take R71. That means that, if Blake’s disclosure is correct, the driver is only getting 49 percent of the entire fee while Uber gets a whopping 51 percent. Granted, Surge pricing was in effect so the general rules go out of the window, but surely Uber shouldn’t be taking more of the fare than the driver. Later, after the trip was complete my fare went up R5, it’s unclear whether this went to the driver or Uber.

If Uber is indeed taking 35 percent of each regular ride, that’s simply untenable.

The firm says that “Uber is a great way to be your own boss and make money” but we’re going to challenge that because any business that loses 35 percent of every sale to a supplier isn’t a business we’d consider a success. It would be like a shampoo company charging a hairdresser 35 percent for every client a stylist works on.

This also brings into question the value Uber is providing here. For most rides, Uber is the middle-man that helps match a rider and driver while also facilitating the payment. One could argue that Uber also provides navigation but many riders we encounter use Waze or Google Maps for that purpose.

To put it plainly, Uber is a booking agent despite what PR spin it puts on that definition. It doesn’t consider its drivers employees and as such there are no benefits for drivers. If they get ill and need to take time off, they don’t get paid. There are no perks and no UIF contributions. In addition, many drivers have to deal with predatory car hiring collectives that charge exorbitant fees to rent a vehicle.

This doesn’t sound like a service that warrants a 35 percent share of all fees to me.

Many will point to the cost of doing business for the ridesharing platform including server fees, maintenance of its app, staff fees, and more

However, given that Uber has a market cap of $91.37 billion as of Monday, we’d argue that maybe the firm doesn’t need to be taking as much of a percentage on every ride taken.

We’ve asked Uber to confirm whether it is indeed taking 35 percent of ride fees as alleged by Blake and should we receive a response we will update this story. The firm’s local public relations arm asked us to provide the driver’s details which we did not, fearing that it would use this information to unfairly target the driver for sharing the information with us.

That aside, the questions are fairly simple – is Uber taking 35 percent of all fares it collects and did it really take 51 percent of the fare with surge pricing in effect?

Let’s see if the firm can answer the questions.


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