LinkedIn/Pierre-Dimitri Gore-CotyPierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty
Uber may have used its “Greyball” technology in the UK, but only for legitimate reasons, company officials have clarified to Business Insider.
- The head of Uber’s European operations, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, sent an email to employees defending the ride-sharing company’s business practices in the UK, in which he mentioned Greyball.
- He was responding to news that Uber will soon be banned from London, unless it can convince the Transport for London (TfL) to overturn its ruling on appeal.
The head of Uber’s European operations, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, sent an email to employees on Friday to reassure them that the company was fighting to stay in London.
In the email, he reitterated that Uber is refuting the allegations made by the TfL, including the use of Greyball for shady reasons. Greyball is the tech that allows Uber to show different users different versions of the app. Uber’s explanation of how and why it uses Greyball was cited by regulators as one reason why they won’t renew Uber’s licence.
Greyball is notorious. It was allegedly used in cities worldwide to evade regulators by tagging accounts used by city officials, causing drivers to be alerted to who they were and not pick them up. It would then allegedly show them a different version of the app, populated with fake Uber cars that appeared to be driving around, as first reported by The New York Times’ Mike Isaac.
“As we have already told TfL, an independent review has found that greyball has never been used, or even considered, in the UK for the purposes cited by the TfL,” he noted in his email.
That language “for the purposes cited by the TfL” was interesting.
An Uber representative clarified to Business Insider that language indicates that the Greyball tech itself may have been used in the UK, as showing different versions of the app to different users has many legitimate uses, such as testing new features to a small subset of people.
But the Uber representative insisted it was never used to sidestep regulators, explaining that Uber had no reason to evade regulators as Uber was operating within the regulatory framework already, classified as a “licensed private hire.”
In his email to employees, Gore-Coty also insisted that drivers are licensed and “have been through the same enhanced DBS background checks as black cab drivers” and that, when it comes to reporting safety issues, the company has a dedicated team that works with London police.
Still, just last month, Uber was accused by London police of failing to report sexual assaults. Uber has also been under fire in that city, and elsewhere, for how it treats and pays its drivers. Next week, the company will appeal a November tribunal ruling that classified its UK drivers as “workers”, not self-employed. If it doesn’t win, drivers will become entitled to minimum wage and holiday pay — which would considerably raise Uber’s costs in the UK.
Gore-Coty assured Uber employees that Uber will be able to operate business as usual, perhaps for months, as Uber works through an appeal process. “We are ready to engage in a vigorous legal defence as I know we play by the rules,” he wrote.
Less than a month into the job, Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is already being thoroughly tested.
In addition to having to solve this crises in London, one of Uber’s biggest markets with 3.5 million users and 40,000 drivers, he’s been dealing with other drama, including more top executive departures like the top folks in Uber’s legal team.
Dear London: we r far from perfect but we have 40k licensed drivers and 3.5mm Londoners depending on us. Pls work w/us to make things right
— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) September 22, 2017
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