Uber faces court over terminations

by HCA08 Jul 2016
Uber has quickly turned into a US$80 billion company, mainly through offering a smartphone booking app that links customers to ride-share taxi drivers. But the company emerges into the real world as a disgruntled Uber driver tests the company’s driver contract in court.

Australian Uber drivers, who were terminated by the American company for falling below service levels, have taken their grievances to court.

Perth driver, Mike Oze-Igiehon, is suing Uber in the District Court of Western Australia. He alleges Uber acted unfairly by failing to pass on negative feedback before terminating his driver’s account suddenly in November.

Mr Oze-Igiehon is demanding Uber pay damages for his losses as a result of being terminated, and being left with $80,000 worth of car loan debt. He alleges the company acted unfairly by failing to pass on negative feedback before terminating his account suddenly in November.

Uber polls its customers and gives drivers a stars-rating, and requires that drivers not fall below a certain ratings. When the star ratings is too low Uber can ‘de-activate’ the driver.
Mr Oze-Igiehon alleges Uber acted unfairly by failing to pass on negative feedback before terminating his account suddenly.
Another Uber driver, Mohammad Qureshi from Brisbane, claimed to being left on the brink of financial ruin after being dumped from the ride-share giant last year. He said the company removed him from the platform permanently when his star-rating slipped.

Mr Oze-Igiehon’s action questions the extent to which the contractor can be fairly advised and respond to complaints about their behaviour, before the hiring company terminates the contractor.

Uber says Mr Oze-Igiehon was deactivated after complaints that the driver "almost fell asleep at the wheel twice", allegations Mr Oze-Igiehon denies.

The Ride Share Drivers' Association of Australia says the Uber deactivation policy does not explain how Uber verifies complaints about drivers.

"All the policy does is detail the reasons you can be deactivated," says Dan Manchester, head of RSDAA, but lacks investigation procedures.

Mike Abbott, Uber’s general manager operations, Australia & New Zealand, said in a company blog post, "It's clear from your feedback that we don't always do a good job working with you to explain our processes."

"At our size that's not good enough."

Uber says drivers drive for the company because it provides "the independence, flexibility and dignity that comes from being their own boss.”

But when The Age newspaper asked workplace lawyers to comment on the Uber driver’s contract, they said left it drivers with few rights and very little hope of resolving any disputes. For instance, Australian Uber drivers agree to have their agreements ruled by the Netherlands’ law of contract, and under the contract Uber can terminate drivers at any time and at its “sole discretion.”

While Australian Uber drivers agree to abide by Dutch contract law, Australia has its own Independent Contractors Act 2006, as well as the Australian Consumer & Competition Commission (ACCC) which presides over fair and unconscionable conduct; Australia also has Fair Work Australia which oversees a ‘workplace rights’ regime, that covers independent contractors.

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