Browsing 'Uber' News

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Updated with comment from Uber

Asserting that they “are not slaves,” hundreds of Uber drivers in Qatar plan to go on strike from today to protest changes in fare policies.

Drivers involved said they will shut off the app en masse. This will increase prices for customers as demand for their services outpaces supply.

In a statement, they told Doha News:

“We drivers are not at all happy working with Uber, as it is very difficult to manage our expenses with low fare & high cost of living. Every month, fuel prices (are) going up and it (is) directly affecting our daily expenditure budget.”

This is the second time in less than a year that Uber drivers have gone on strike to protest their working conditions.

Upfront fares

This week, drivers said that several new changes Uber has made in recent months are cutting into their earnings.

In November for example, Uber rolled out a service that slashed prices by up to 25 percent for pickups in smaller, older cars.

At the time, drivers working under UberGo complained that they needed to make more trips to earn the same money they were making before.

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Uber strike flier

And late last month, the company introduced a new pricing policy called “upfront fares.”

The service shows customers who enter their destination in the Uber app an estimated trip fare before they even request a ride.

This helps clients budget better and saves them from “surprises or complicated math,” Uber states on its website.

Uber Qatar

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It added that the fare would only change if drivers are kept waiting during pickup.

But drivers complained to Doha News that the upfront fares don’t take into account heavy traffic or any stops the customer asks them to make en route to their final destination.

Dishonest customers

In response to competitor Careem, Uber also now accepts cash payments, instead of just payment via credit card through its app.

But drivers said some customers take advantage of this by running away after the ride, or claiming to ask to get money from an ATM and then never coming back.

Lesley Walker

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“If we make complaint, Uber will not do anything but at the same time they deduct 25 percent commission from our account for this unpaid trip also,” the drivers said.

They added, “Careem, the other online taxi provider, they always give money to us for unpaid rides.”

In a statement to Doha News, an Uber spokesperson said:

“Uber is committed to dialogue with partner drivers and our priority is to always improve their experience.”

He added, “Thousands of partners driving with Uber in Doha are satisfied and can rely on a dedicated partner support center located in the city with experts committed to answer their questions, share advice to improve their profitability and support any concern or problem they might encounter.”

Have you had a harder time catching a cab today? Thoughts?

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Joakim Formo/Flickr

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Uber in Qatar has launched a new service that slashes prices by up to 25 percent for pickups in smaller, older cars.

The UberGo option came into force last week and is in addition to the existing UberX service.

UberGo uses smaller hatchback vehicles, such as the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic, and has a minimum fare of QR10, Uber said in a statement announcing the new service.

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“There is probably a couple of hundred thousand riders in Qatar who we previously priced out of the market. We wanted to offer something more affordable for them,” Chris Free, general manager of Uber in the UAE and Qatar, told Doha News.

However, drivers working under UberGo would need to make more journeys to earn the same money they were making before.

These lower fares could discourage some drivers from joining, one cabbie told Doha News.

Quick trips

Previously, Qatar was the only country in which Uber offered one type of service.

In other nations for example, riders could hire an UberXL if they needed a larger vehicle, or deploy a premium “black” car.

Now, Qatar is the first country in the region to have UberGo, although this service is already available in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

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Lesley Walker / Doha News

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The company said the service is aimed at the many people here who do not have their own cars or a driving license, and wish to make quick, cheap trips.

It added that a “good supply” of smaller, older vehicles are behind the launch of the new service.

Customers using the Uber app can choose either X or Go and can toggle between the two services.

Payment can be made in cash, or by credit card.

Competition

The new service is an attempt to take on Dubai-based Careem, which already has three cost options for Qatar passengers – Go, Economy and Premium.

Using the online fare calculator, fares for a mid-week, daytime trip from the W Hotel in Dafna/West Bay to the airport appeared to be slightly cheaper under Uber.

The route cost some QR30-40 under UberGo, and QR39-51 under UberX.

Example comparison of prices for typical journeys under UberX and UberGo

Uber

Example comparison of prices for typical journeys under UberX and UberGo

Meanwhile, the cost of taking Careem was around QR43 for Go (which launched this week), QR54 for its Economy service and QR69 for Premium rides.

That said, so far this week, waiting times for UberGo cars appear to be longer than for UberX vehicles.

However, Free said more drivers were still being brought onto the new service and that waiting times should fall in the coming weeks.

“We are getting more drivers on the platform and more companies signed up,” he said.

Uber declined to confirm the number of drivers it has using its app, saying that is commercially sensitive information.

Drivers’ pressure

While cheaper fares might be good news for passengers, it will mean drivers working under UberGo will have to do more work for the same amount of money.

This may not be possible for those working during peak hours such as evenings and weekends, when the traffic is heavy and even short journeys take longer.

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Muhammad Kamran Qureshi/Flickr

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Speaking to Doha News, one UberX driver said:

“It will be difficult. Drivers will have to do too many trips to get their money. It is a very cheap price (for the fares). Not so many drivers will be working for UberGo. It is too cheap,” he said.

For now, drivers are not being given the choice of which service they will operate under.

Those with smaller cars that are from 2012 or older will only be able to work under UberGo, Free told Doha News.

“We might in the future give drivers the choice but to avoid confusion right now, the two services will be distinct. We felt like we wanted to differentiate the offering, on price and age of vehicle,” he added.

Currently, vehicles older than five years cannot use the Uber platform, though Free said this could change.

Lower prices

This is not the first time Uber has tried to drive down taxi fares in Qatar to attract more customers and compete with local rival Careem.

In April this year, it reduced fares by by around 15 to 20 percent for passengers.

Despite claims at the time by the company that it would protect drivers’ income, many protested by refusing to log-on to the software that connects them with customers.

This led to a shortage of available cars, long waiting times for passengers and surge-pricing.

Uber screenshot

Doha News

Uber screenshot

Despite the price cuts, Free said that average drivers’ earnings per hour in September “surpassed” those of April this year, when the lower fares were introduced. And he said that the number of journeys made was also up.

“They are making more money, doing more trips,” he added. However, he would not give any figures for these claims.

Would you use UberGo? Thoughts?

Qatar limo companies working illegally with Uber, Careem put on notice

Qatar’s Ministry of Transport and Communications has given taxi and limousine companies that use online apps to find passengers 30 days to properly register with the government or risk legal action, according to a public notice.

It’s not clear if the ministry is targeting Uber and Careem – both of which are named in the notice – themselves, or the local limo and taxi companies that supply it with cars and drivers. It’s the latest local blow to Uber, which is still engaged in a labor dispute with drivers in Qatar. When contacted by Doha News, Uber declined comment and Careem said it’s “working closely with relevant authorities.”