For an industry with the word “sharing” in its name, the ride-sharing biz can get pretty dirty.
Lyft is accusing ride-sharing competitor Uber of trying to undercut its business by ordering and then canceling rides, a tactic that could push passengers to Uber by temporarily tying up Lyft drivers.
It also means Lyft’s drivers, identified by the fuzzy pink mustache on their cars, end up wasting time and money en route to pick up customers only to have them cancel.
Lyft told CNN Money 177 Uber drivers across the country have ordered and canceled more than 5,000 rides since October. The company pinned the scam on Uber by cross-referencing phone numbers of known Uber recruiters with the phone numbers attached to accounts that canceled rides.
Lyft drivers have also complained to headquarters about Uber drivers booking short, low-profit rides with Lyft so that they could make a sales pitch, hoping to lure them to Uber.
One Uber recruiter had set up 21 different Lyft accounts (all tied to the same phone number) and had canceled 1,524 rides. Seven Lyft drivers identified the person as an Uber recruiter, the company said.
In a statement to Business Insider, Uber called the report “patently false.” It went on to say:
Both riders and drivers help recruit new drivers to the Uber platform, where the economic opportunity is unmatched in the industry. We recently ran a program where thousands of riders recruited drivers from other platforms, earning hundreds of dollars in Uber credits for each driver who tries Uber. Even Lyft drivers have participated in a successful campaign recruiting thousands of other Lyft drivers to Uber, where drivers make a better living than on any other platform.
Taking the ride and meeting the driver is essential to successful recruitment.
So Uber admits to trying to recruit Lyft drivers — but that doesn’t explain the canceled rides, a tactic that looks more like sabotage than a sales pitch.
Uber pulled a similar trick a few months after another car service, Gett, launched in New York. The company accused Uber of hiring, then canceling 100 rides in January. Uber fessed up. In a statement to Tech Crunch, the company said that “it was likely too aggressive a sales tactic.” Uber had requested the cars to access the phone numbers of Gett drivers so it could recruit them.
Uber has targeted Lyft before. It has offered Lyft drivers free gas cards and bonuses to defect. Earlier this year, Uber tried to recruit Lyft drivers using billboards featuring the slogan “shave the ‘stache.’ ”
— Edith Yeung (@edithyeung) May 24, 2013