Uber has expanded its program to boot US and Canadian riders from their app who have substandard star ratings as they have in other countries. On the surface, this plan makes sense but it’s imperfect and may not work as intended.
Uber Announces New Bans
Uber had previously disclosed that riders had been banned in Brazil for sub 4.0 star ratings. They expanded that program to Australia and New Zealand in October of last year. The ridesharing app hasn’t stated the criteria that will result in bans for riders in the US and Canada yet, a surprising move given that they were clear in the other cases.
A spokesperson for Uber gave little information about the criteria that will result in expulsion from the app:
“Each city has its own minimum threshold which is directly related to the average rider rating in that city,”
The Independent Driver’s Guild welcomed the news as they felt the star rating previously only penalized drivers while unsavory riders have been permitted to use the app unscathed.
They Have Good Reason
Attacks on drivers make for flashy headlines at the expense of the drivers who are simply doing their job. Protecting their riders has always been a priority but now protecting drivers have taken a front seat position. Drivers don’t deserve abuse, physical, verbal nor of their own property which they use to conduct business.
Uber is a public company but they are not a public service. If they so choose to include or exclude customers or drivers for whatever reason they determine, that is their choice. If drivers or riders disagree with their policy they can take their business to alternatives as well.
Reasons It Could Backfire
There a few reasons that good riders should be wary of the new regulations. The issue at stake is that drivers determine any reason for which they may choose to rate a passenger poorly. Uber have not released such and riders can rate drivers poorly for any reason they choose.
Assuming for a moment that a driver didn’t care for a rider for something that had nothing to do with their conduct, the user could be banned for doing nothing wrong. For example, if a rider was polite but wearing a MAGA hat, a lightning rod for liberals, they could be rated poorly based on their political views whether they expressed them or not. The same could be true for same-sex couples, persons of color, age, or even as basic as choosing not to talk to the driver while they ride.
False low ratings will eliminate otherwise good riders from using the service which would lower the company’s revenue and tarnish their image. That’s bad for business.
This Was Expected… By Me
I wrote a post earlier this year outlining how this program could backfire if expanded. I stand by those claims and frankly, feel a little vindicated. Some said that it won’t happen here but now it’s on the US and Canadian riders doorstep. Some said that low star rated riders should be banned and to an extent, I agree.
Where I take exception is the high value that was previously used for banning. In other countries, a 4.0 star rating was reason enough to terminate an account and anyone that has flunked a test knows that one poor rating will drag down your average quickly. That seems drastic.
For many, Uber is more than a ride-sharing app, it’s a safety tool; Lyft is not available in many other countries while Uber is. Excluding customers or drivers from their use of the app without forcing some sort of further investigation to show why a particularly low rating is given can jeopardize otherwise good passengers and drivers from those with less honorable intentions. I welcome a system whereby both drivers and riders are protected from bad actors of the other party, however, I remain concerned about the rollout.
What do you think? Do you welcome banning customers (in addition to drivers)? Have you been banned from the app? If the star rating threshold is 4.0, is that too high?