Drivers are not our problem, says Uber's new policy

Sep 15, 2015, 06:50 IST | Shashank Rao

Uber revised its terms and conditions, denying any responsibility for the safety, quality or reliability of its rides; this may clash with new set of norms the state, Centre plan to bring in to govern cab services

The next time you book an Uber cab, you might want to take a look at the fine print. At a time when passenger safety has become a major concern, particularly after the alleged rape of a female passenger by an Uber driver last year, the multinational company is instead looking to shirk all responsibility.

Also read: Uber driver arrested in Kolkata for obscene act

In a September 10 update of its terms and conditions, Uber has blatantly denied any responsibility for the safety, quality or reliability of its service. In fact, the app-based cab aggregator goes as far as to ask passengers to acknowledge that ‘Uber does not provide transportation or logistics services or function as a transportation carrier’, and shifts all liability onto ‘independent third party contractors’ or the drivers.

Also read: Uber's pricing on Taxi Strike Day takes commuters for a shock ride

Uber released a revised set of terms and conditions on September 10, according to which the company is not responsible for anything that goes wrong during the cab ride. Representation pic/Getty Images
Uber released a revised set of terms and conditions on September 10, according to which the company is not responsible for anything that goes wrong during the cab ride. Representation pic/Getty Images

The document further reads, ‘Uber does not guarantee the quality, suitability, safety or ability of third party providers. You agree that the entire risk arising out of your use of the services, and any service or good requested in connection therewith, remains solely with you…’

What this means is that if there were any danger to the passenger on account of the ride, the driver or any other factors, Uber will not be answerable for it. What’s more, if you don’t agree with these conditions, you will be barred from using Uber’s services.

The spark
This is exactly the opposite of what the Indian government and public have been demanding ever since December 8, 2014, when a New Delhi-based woman was allegedly raped by Uber driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav.

Also read: Uber cab driver had been jailed earlier in a rape case

The incident sparked outrage across the nation, especially after it was discovered that Yadav had already been charged with rape once before, but Uber had failed to pick up on this due to unsatisfactory verification of drivers.

Following this, Maharas-htra, and other states, began to work on changes to the transport policy, so as to incorporate such mobile phone-based cab aggregators into the system. The state already sent its policy draft to the Centre a couple of months ago.

Once cleared, cab services will have to register under the new policy and abide by the norms, some of which have been proposed as GPS-enabled vehicles and a panic button that passengers can use to send an SOS message to the police control room.

But with Uber seeking to wash its hands off the responsibility for passenger safety, the company’s policy will likely clash with that of the government’s. Officials in the state Transport department told mid-day that this is simply Uber attempting to wish away its responsibility.

“They cannot make such kind of rules. It is their moral duty, despite being a service provider, to ensure the safety of passengers,” said a Transport department official, on condition of anonymity. In fact, Uber now not only refuses to answer for any event that takes place during the journey or the cab driver’s behaviour, but it is also shying away from any promise of timely service, quality, availability, etc.

On the one hand, Uber claims its performance has only been improving over the months, and cabs have become more reliable and take less time to reach passengers (4 to 12 minutes). On the other, according to the revised terms, you cannot expect answers from Uber even if your cab fails to turn up on time, or if the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

‘Uber makes no warranty or guarantee regarding the reliability, timeliness, quality, suitability or availability of the services requested or that the services will be uninterrupted,’ state the conditions. In addition, Uber has limited its monetary liability to passengers to €500 (approx Rs 37,500) for all damages, losses and causes of action.

Also read: Uber driver arrested for molesting passenger, gets bail

When mid-day contacted Uber, the company requested for another day before it could get back to us. However, sources from the company said, “This rule will be applied pan-India. The terms of reference provided for the users will hopefully not clash with the government’s view.”

Taxi unions weigh in
Black-and-yellow taxi unions have protested against cab aggregators, demanding a ban on such services that eat into their livelihood. Union leaders are now questioning how Uber can simply shrug off all responsibility. A L Quadros, the leader of one of the city’s largest taxi unions, said, “It is their responsibility to provide safe travel.

How can they wash it off their hands like this?” K Tiwari, leader of Swabhiman Taxi-Rickshaw Union, which recently went on a strike against app-based cab services, said, “We have been protesting against mobile app-based aggregators for long. But the government is supporting them despite the fact that they are not accountable under any government policy.”

Image issues

Mumbai: When the city’s black-and-yellow taxi drivers went on strike on June 15, Uber and other app-based cab services charges as much as five times their normal rates (‘Uber’s pricing on Taxi Strike Day takes commuters for a shock ride’, June 16). This ‘dynamic pricing’ has brought considerable flak upon Uber in India, the US and several other countries where it operates.

New Delhi: The capital city placed a ban on Uber after the alleged rape of a female passenger by an Uber driver in New Delhi caught the entire country’s attention in December 2014. In January, the survivor filed a lawsuit against the San Fransisco-based company in a US federal court, claiming the company had failed to put basic safety measures in place.

Netherlands and Germany: Courts pulled up Uber for commissioning unlicenced drivers as part of its Uber Pop service. Uber discontinued this service in France as well, following violent demonstrations against it.

Thailand and Spain: Both countries banned Uber for different reasons. Thailand said Uber drivers were not registered or insured to drive commercial vehicles and the company’s credit card system did not comply with either. A court in Spain held that since Uber was not following norms for taxi services, it was unfair competition for licenced cabs.

Penalised: The cab service was fined US$7.3m by a California court for failing to file data reports that were a mandatory condition for Uber.

New York: Uber and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio locked horns in July over a proposal to cap the growth of for-hire vehicle companies like Uber to 1%. They launched into a publicity war, with the cab service rolling out millions of dollars in a media attack against Blasio. They eventually reached a truce of sorts.


Neha Katdare, Juhu resident 
Safety is of utmost importance. Now the new terms and conditions will make me uncomfortable while using Uber.

Shalini Mane, Mira Road resident
I used to find Uber comfortable because I knew all the details of the driver, the car, etc. via the app. But now they have made it clear that they are just app-based aggregators and are not providing the service themselves; this has made me skeptical.

Shirish Deshpande, Advocate, Mumbai Grahak Panchayat
Although Uber provides competition for the taxi services, there is a need to regulate the company. They just cannot wash their hands off their responsibility, as they are the technical providers

DISCLAIMER: mid-day and its affiliates shall have no liability for any views, thoughts and comments expressed on this article.

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