Robo-firing may cost Uber a fortune: two drivers to share $600K
Drivers fired by Uber’s automated system may soon get a big payout after Uber failed to provide a proper explanation. The District Court of Amsterdam ruled that drivers were right to demand penalty payments which total to $600,000 – and growing by thousands each day.
Three Uber drivers, one from Portugal and two from the United Kingdom, had their accounts deactivated by Uber’s machines for alleged fraud and failed to get a proper explanation from the company. So, they went to court.
The dispute arose over uncertainty about whether Uber should comply with drivers’ requests for information, according to the court documents.
Uber deactivated the drivers’ accounts in 2020 on allegations of repeatedly breaching contractual terms. One driver allegedly collected fees for canceled rides when the cancellations were caused by himself. The other two drivers performed pricey rides and collected pay from Uber when passengers had invalid payment details and were always almost in the same location as the drivers, according to court documents.
At first, the court ordered Uber to provide certain information or pay a penalty of €4,000 ($4,224) for each day. However, drivers were not happy with Uber’s explanations, and the case went further.
On October 5th, The District Court of Amsterdam ruled that Uber did not comply completely with the order as it interpreted the requirements too narrowly. It also avoided revealing sensitive details about its automatic fraud detection and profiling systems. Since Uber did not properly explain the automatic firing, the drivers were right to claim financial penalties. In one driver’s case, according to the court, Uber’s explanation of the decision was sufficient.
€4,000 per day between 13th May 2023 and 18th September 2023 totaled to €516,000, and continues to grow. The drivers even requested increasing the penalty to €12,000 per day, but the court rejected the request. The penalty payments would be shared between the two drivers. And the process may not be over yet, as Uber could potentially still appeal aspects of the decision or provide outstanding information. Both parties will also have to cover court fees.
Judge doubts that Uber made every effort
Judge R. A. Dudok van Heel questioned “whether Uber made every effort to comply.”
“It could also be that Uber is deliberately trying to withhold certain information because it does not want to give an insight into its business and revenue model. Whatever this may be, in any case, Uber has not complied with the injunction, and there is no reason to mitigate the forfeited penalty payments”, his decision reads.
In refusing to suspend or cap the penalty payments he also wrote that “The high and uncapped periodic penalty payments are not considered disproportionate…these penalty payments can provide sufficient incentive for Uber to comply with the order."
Uber, or any other company, must comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which also covers access to personal data and information about the existence of automated decision-making.
The drivers’ case was initiated and financially supported by the Worker Info Exchange (WIE) and the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU)
Anton Ekker, of Ekker Law, who is representing the drivers, explained that drivers have been fighting for their right to information on automated deactivations for years.
“The Amsterdam Court of Appeal confirmed this right in its principled judgment of 4th April 2023. It is highly objectionable that Uber has so far refused to comply with the Court's order. However, it is my belief that the principle of transparency will ultimately prevail,” he said.
In a press release, James Farrar, Director of Worker Info Exchange, said that “Uber habitually flouts the law and defies the orders of even the most senior courts.”
“Uber drivers and couriers are exhausted by years of merciless algorithmic exploitation at work and grinding litigation to achieve some semblance of justice while government and local regulators sit back and do nothing to enforce the rules,” his quote reads.
He calculated that, for now, Uber’s forfeited penalties stand at €584,000 (almost $617,000).
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