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Uber knew it was shortchanging drivers since 2015, report suggests

Last week, Uber said it had just discovered an accounting error that had cost its drivers millions. But new evidence has emerged that suggests Uber has known about the issue for a year and a half.

Uber might have some explaining to do.
James Martin/CNET

Just over a week after Uber confessed to underpaying its drivers due to what the ride-sharing service described as an accounting error, the company is facing fresh questions about how long it actually knew about the issue.

Uber claims to have only discovered the issue a few weeks ago, but a report from the New York Times Thursday pointed to a tweak made in Uber's contract with drivers in December of 2015. Plaintiffs argue that Uber seemed to be aware of the problem when they revised the contract to more clearly state the company's practices with regards to commissions, fares and taxes -- yet the oversized commissions continued up until last month.

The issue at hand stems from Uber taking its commissions from driver fares that included sales tax, instead of from pretax fares. Over time, that's added up to tens of millions of dollars' worth of lost revenue for drivers -- money Uber says it plans on paying back, plus interest.

"We are working hard to regain driver trust, and that means being transparent, sticking to our word, and making the Uber experience better from end to end," Rachel Holt, Uber's regional general manager for the US and Canada, said in a statement last month.

Per the New York Times, Richard Emery, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, calls the contract tweak "very powerful circumstantial evidence that they understood that their calculation of the commission was wrong." 

Uber declined to offer any additional comment.

Update, 3.10 p.m. ET: The New York Times used the word "suggesting" in its report, which was not clear in some earlier versions of this story.