In Depth

Who is Uber's new boss Dara Khosrowshahi?

Global firm's CEO is a high-flying Iranian-American with a PR crisis to fix and a predecessor who's still involved

Uber forced to shut down in Denmark after law change

29 March

Uber is being forced to pull out of Denmark next month as the global battle over its status rolls on.

A change in the law in the Scandinavian country means taxis must have both a fare meter installed in the cab and sensors on seats to prevent overcharging.

As Uber handles all charging via its app, it can no longer operate in the country and it has announced it will shut down on 18 April, says the BBC.

It said: "For us to operate in Denmark again the proposed regulations need to change.

"We will continue to work with the government in the hope that they will update their proposed regulations and enable Danes to enjoy the benefits of modern technologies like Uber."

Uber has operated in Denmark for three years and says it has 2,000 drivers serving around 300,000 customers.

It added it will "allocate resources" to help drivers during the shutdown process and will also maintain its software division in Aarhus, in northern Denmark, where it employs 40 people.

Uber styles itself as a technology company, claiming it merely operates an app that puts customers in touch with independent drivers, who are classified as self-employed contractors.

However, a series of legal battles in various countries has seen rivals and regulators try to force the company to fall into line with rules on traditional taxi firms.

Last year, a UK tribunal ruled in favour of two Uber drivers who claimed they could not be considered self-employed, which would entitle them to extensive workers' rights.

Uber has also faced legal actions in Paris, Frankfurt and Madrid and is awaiting a decision from the European Court of Justice that could determine how it is regulated, The Guardian says.

In addition, a private action has been launched in the UK over its policy of not paying VAT.

Campaigner Jo Maugham says Uber should be charging 20 per cent on its fares and paying that as value added tax to HMRC.

Uber says the tax is payable by its drivers, most of whom earn below the VAT threshold of £83,000, meaning very little is collected, reports the Daily Mail.

Uber president Jeff Jones quits after six months

20 March

Uber president Jeff Jones has quit his role after less than six months, citing incompatible leadership styles.

He told online news outlet Recode: "It is now clear... that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber and I can no longer continue as president of the ride-sharing business."

The BBC reports the news comes after the company announced it would hire a new chief operating officer (COO) and that Jones was not among the candidates.

Uber co-founder and chief executive Travis Kalanick, who last month said he "needed leadership help", despite Jones' presence within the company, said: "After we announced our intention to hire a COO, Jeff came to the tough decision that he doesn't see his future at Uber."

Kalanick himself is expected to step down as chief executive once the new chief operating officer is in place and ahead of a "long-anticipated potential initial public offering", the BBC says.

Jones's departure comes as Uber battles a number of controversies, including 200,000 customers deleting the app en masse from their smartphones in January in protest over its business practices and accusations that it was attempting to capitalise from protests over Donald Trump's travel ban.

The company has also been caught up in an ongoing dispute with a former engineer who went public with claims of gender bias and sexual harassment at the company.

In addition, says Business Insider, Uber has been "sued by its investor, Google, for allegedly using stolen technology and had details of a program designed to deceive government authorities".

Uber's Travis Kalanick apologises for swearing at one of his drivers

1 March

Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick has sent a memo to 11,000 staff to apologise for an outburst at one of the firm's drivers.

A video, shot at the beginning of February and released by Bloomberg overnight, shows the businessman arguing over claims the firm has been lowering rates.

Driver Fawzi Kamel, who works for Uber's upmarket service UberBlack in San Francisco, tells him: "I lost $97,000 because of you. I'm bankrupt because of you."

Drivers "started with $20" per mile, he says, adding: "How much is the mile now, $2.75?"

The Uber boss responds by repeatedly calling the claims "b*******". He adds: "Some people don't like to take responsibility for their own s***. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck."

Kalanick said the video showed he must "must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up". He added he is going to get "leadership help", says the Washington Post.

Recode says it is has been unable to precisely ascertain how rates for UberBlack have changed, but "based on previous reporting, the per-mile rate has stayed at around the same price".

The Financial Times also says rates have been "stable for several years", but Bloomberg argues that in San Francisco, they have gone from $4.90 per mile in 2012 to $3.75.

As for the claim of $20 per mile, Kamel may have been referring to the company's own advertising that stated drivers could earn up to this amount, a claim that was the subject of a lawsuit last year, The Spectator reports.

Either way, UberBlack drivers are generally regarded as having lost out since the company introduced cheaper mass-market service UberX.

It is in this regard that Kalanick arguably shows how "out of touch" he is "with the reality of the failings of his own business model", says the FT.

UberBlack drivers, who are technically self-employed, like all of the firm's workers, have to lease higher-spec, more expensive cars, a commitment many took on the basis of promises of what they could earn.

The FT says this shows "self-denial about the problem being his business model not the driver’s inability to manage his financial affairs".

Uber faces €45m lawsuit 'for causing divorce'

13 February

Uber has been embroiled in lawsuits all over the world over its controversial business model, but its latest legal headache is much more personal - it is being sued for €45m (£38m) in France for allegedly causing a divorce.

The businessman who brought the claim had "logged into his Uber account on his wife's iPhone once", says The Verge, but the app then sent her notifications of all the trips he booked through his own phone.

These included "rides through the French Riviera" which "aroused her suspicions" that he was having an affair, says the Washington Post.

It's not clear whether or not the businessman was having an affair, but the couple have divorced and the husband lays the blame squarely at Uber's door.

Lawyer David-Andre Darmon said: "My client was the victim of a bug in an application. There's a function to disconnect but the session was not disconnected… The bug has caused him problems in his private life."

French newspaper Le Figaro said it have replicated the bug, but only on iPhones running a version of the Uber application before a December 15 update. 

"Throughout the ages, philosophers and poets have offered plenty of sensible advice about adultery," says the Washington Post. "Exodus 20:14, for instance, took the Nancy Reagan approach - just say no."

Somewhat less catchy was the recent lesson learned in this case, it adds: "If you are going to take suspicious rides through the French Riviera, do not also use your wife’s buggy Uber account."

Uber declined to comment.

Uber racks up £1.6bn so far this year

21 December

Global ride-hailing behemoth Uber has racked up $1.9bn (£1.6bn) of losses for the first three quarters of this financial year, despite substantially increasing revenues.

The Wall Street Journal says reports on the company's third-quarter results – which are not publicly released – show it made a loss of "at least" $800m (£645m) in the three-month period from August to September.

That came on top of losses for the first six months that were already running at $1.2bn (£970m).

The company – which, based on investor fund-raisings, is valued at around $68bn (£55bn) and is said to be seeking a stock market listing – has continued to invest in expanding its business around the world.

In particular, says the WSJ, it continued with "hefty spending on promotions", including cash payments and incentives to attract new drivers, and pumped money into new ventures like self-driving cars and takeaway food delivery arm Ubereats.

This explains why big losses are amassing even as revenues continue to soar, from $1.1bn (£890m) in the second quarter to $1.7bn (£1.4bn) in the third.

Elsewhere the company continues to wrangle with authorities around the world, most recently with the motor regulators in California over its trial of self-driving cars in San Francisco.

The trial started last week – complete with witness reports of two cars jumping red lights – and provoked anger after it emerged that Uber had failed to get a licence from the Californian Department of Motor Vehicles.

The state district attorney has demanded Uber take the cars off the road or face legal action, says The Guardian.

The company has insisted it is in a unique position compared to the 20 companies that have already obtained a licence for their autopilot vehicles because Uber's cars require a human operator to supervise each vehicle's movements.

In this respect it claims to be more akin to Tesla's "autopilot" function, which does not require a licence. Ironically, the Guardian adds, Tesla is one of the 20 firms to have obtained a licence to test a self-driving car in the city despite not needing one.

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