When Uber-Aggressive Tactics Cross the Line
Tenacity, guts, gall…whatever you call it, no one's ever rightly claimed Uber doesn't have it.
Sometimes, that rubs people the wrong way. Sometimes, those people are competitors. And in a recent case, the competitor seems pretty darned justified in being upset.
In what appears to be a systematic attempt over the first two weeks of January to gather data on drivers working with a competitor in black-car hailing in New York City, Gett, more than a dozen Uber employees hailed rides with Gett repeatedly, and canceled those requests.
After a ride had been confirmed, and the Uber employee had access to the Gett driver's information, Uber texted the driver in an attempt to recruit him or her. Uber doesn't deny that, but claims it paid all cancellation charges.
Gett, a company known globally as GetTaxi, likens the nearly 200 rides it claims were hailed and canceled by Uber employees to spam--specifically, likening it to flooding a website with requests to crash a server, which is known as a denial-of-service attack. Jing Herman, the CEO of Gett in the United States said in a statement: "We quickly blocked the attack and the Gett system was not compromised."
Uber admits it was "likely too aggressive a sales tactic," but seems to believe it's all in the game. (Also, it seems to be referring to a driver-recruitment tactic, not a sales tactic.) "Our local teams can be pretty determined when spreading the word about Uber and how our platform opens up new economic opportunities for drivers," the company said in a statement.
Gett is five months into operating in New York, and often in marketing compares itself to Uber--in the negative. Unlike Uber, it does not use surge pricing. Instead, it tacks on an extra flat fee in times of high demand, such as New Year's Eve. The company operates in 20 cities, and globally is known as GetTaxi.
Gett has not commented on whether it will pursue legal action against Uber. But one San Francisco attorney told CNNMoney that Uber could indeed land in legal hot water for the sorts of practices it appeared to be using. He said: "If Uber employees intentionally diverted Gett drivers from legitimate business by making phony calls, that is an unfair business practice, illegal under California law. It is also an intentional interference with Gett's business which makes them liable for money damages."
It's unclear whether Uber was trying to derail this scrappy competitor, or simply displaying classic--albeit extreme--aggressiveness. It'll be interesting to watch for who flinches first.
CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN | Staff Writer | Senior Writer
Christine Lagorio-Chafkin is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is a senior writer at Inc.