Uber drivers in Australia log off to protest upfront pricing, pooling

A lobby group says the features shortchange drivers.

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California regulators say Uber dropped the ball in regard to drunk-driving complaints.

Australian drivers protested Uber early Monday.

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Uber drivers in Australia were told to log off their apps on Monday morning to protest "features designed to further shortchange and underpay" them.

RideShare Drivers United (RDSU) called on them to turn off the Uber app between 7:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. local time in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Hobart.

The lobby group said that around 15,000 drivers took part in the action and added that a "series of further disruptions are planned" if Uber fails to respond to their demands.

The group wants the ride-sharing company to stop using "upfront pricing" in favor of the old system in which drivers are paid by time and distance traveled. It said the upfront approach fails to take into account "unexpected traffic conditions, passenger requested stops, and/or occasional road closures."

Upfront pricing estimates the cost of a ride for passengers prior to booking.

The RDSU also demanded that Uber allow drivers to opt out of the UberPool system (in which passengers share with others) and increase UberX base rates by at least 15 percent to account for the "constant increase in car maintenance and on-road costs."

Uber said the changes are part of its ongoing effort to improve the app for drivers and riders.

"We want driver-partners to be successful when using the Uber app which is why we are investing in innovative technology to encourage more riders to choose the app, and proactively share information about when and where the best times to drive are," an Uber spokesperson said in a statement.

Upfront pricing came to Australia in March, the same month that Indian ridesharing company Ola launched as a competitor in Sydney.

In June, a London taxi driver group said it was exploring the possibility of bringing a class action lawsuit against Uber, weeks after the company dodged a ban in the British capital.

First published, Aug. 6 at 5:11 am PT.
Update, 7:28 a.m. PT: Adds the number of drivers who took part.
Latest update, 9:10 a.m. PT: Adds Uber response.