The Trouble With Uber: Sexual Assault, Rape Allegations and Angry Protests

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A woman in London has revealed that she was offered £20 credit from Uber after one of its drivers allegedly sexually harassed her during a cab ride.

The passenger contacted Uber to inform them of the incident, where she described the driver as being “very forward and quite creepy. Asked me if I wanted him to go down on me. Not cool.”



A marketing manager apologized for the “intrusive experience” and claimed they were “already investigating this with [the driver] and I can assure you that necessary actions will be taken to avoid a similar incident in the future.”

The tepid response led the passenger to reply with a more detailed description of the incident, which began with the driver inviting her to sit in the front, which she agreed to do, as she felt carsick.

“Towards the end of the journey he was asking if I liked blow jobs, saying that he was very good at going down on girls or giving "sucky sucky" to girls and did I want him to do it to me,” she explained in emails revealed to Newsweek.

“He even suggested that he could pull over into a side street and do it now if I wanted, which was I think the scariest part of the drive.”

As a woman alone in the car, she said she felt “so uncomfortable” with the drivers language and behaviour and that her “trust was completely violated”.

Her account was credited with £20 as an apology and “in hope that you will give us a second chance”.

PR disasters



The incident is the latest in a string of worldwide controverises for Uber.

Yesterday, the app was banned in Spain due to “unfair competition” after protests across the country by taxi associations.

Last week, Delhi banned the app after an Uber driver was accused of raping a 27-year-old female passenger.

As of today, Uber is banned in the following countries/cities:

Spain – due to taxi driver protests
Thailand – due to taxi driver protests
Germany – banned the “low-cost” UberPop service, which allows drivers over the age of 21 using their own car to transport passengers
Delhi, India – following the recently rape allegations. However, Uber continues to operate in 10 other Indian cities.
Netherlands – has banned the UberPop ride-sharing service

Last month, an executive at Uber courted controversy when he suggested hiring a private detective and starting a smear campaign against a journalist who had questioned some of the company's more dubious practices.



































An Uber driver in London has been accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger. [Rex]
London black cabs protest Uber's presence in the capital. [Rex]

The issues



The problem with Uber appears to be two-fold.

On one hand, established taxi companies and drivers are revolting against their undercutting prices that have led to protests from London to Berlin to Washington D.C.

But the other, arguably more worrying issue is that of background checks that Uber carries out on its drivers.

While the security checks for prospective drivers in the US are stringent, the same cannot be said for Uber drivers around the world.

In the US, drivers cannot have any DUIs, hit and runs, violent crimes or sexual offences among others.

However it has emerged that the Delhi Uber driver accused of raping a passenger, Shiv Kumar Yadav, had been arrested on rape charges in 2011 but had been acquitted.



He was also out on bail at the time for three serious criminal cases, according to the New York Times.

To become an Uber driver in India, Yadav needed an All India Tourist Permit and a driver’s badge.

He had both – but according to a tweet sent by New Delhi’s deputy commissioner in May, the badge was issued based on forged documents.

In the UK, the drivers do not go through the same checks as in the US.

According to an Uber spokesperson, all drivers are “checked by the relevant regulator” – in the case of London this is Transport for London (TfL).

How to become an Uber driver



However, signing up to become a driver takes as little as five minutes.

Applicants need an email address, a mobile number, their own car and can choose to become either an UberEXEC, uberX, UberLUX or UberTaxi driver.

All drivers need either a private-hire licence or be certified and licenced by the city you wish to work in.

A few short clicks and you’re in – pending the upload of your taxi driver licence and badge numbers.

At this stage it does say that you are ‘Ready to Interview’ but when Yahoo tried to book a time for this interview in London, we were told that no more bookings could be accepted at the time.

There is no information given about the “interview” except that it lasts just 30 minutes and takes place at the Uber office in Millbank Tower.

Despite this brief mention of an interview, the introductory email from Uber mentions nothing about meeting anyone from the company face-to-face before you begin driving.

“Give us 24 hours to process your documents and you will be good to go! We’ll drop you a text once your account is activated and you can get on the road and start earning!”

Despite this, an Uber spokesperson confirmed to Yahoo that all drivers meet a member of Uber staff face-to-face but wouldn’t comment on any details about this meeting.

The future

Trouble with local governments, worldwide bans and now questions about how they vet their drivers have got many commenters remarking that this relatively new company is growing too fast too soon.

Started in just 2009, Uber was recently valued at $40bn (£25.5) but it’s all for naught if passengers can’t even feel safe in the back of their cabs.

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Cities including Berlin, Delhi and Washington D.C. (pictured) have witnessed protests against Uber. [Rex]
Drivers can sign up to become an Uber driver in mere minutes. [Rex]