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Uber

Too much risk and too little money deter Hong Kong Uber drivers

After the ride-sharing company announced it would cease its taxi and van services from Monday, operators have complained of unfair insurance liabilities and high commissions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 August, 2016, 11:12pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 September, 2016, 9:34am

In the wake of Uber’s announcement to pull back on non-core services in Hong Kong, concerns have been raised over hidden risks in working for the ride-sharing operator.

One UberBlack driver named Sunny criticised the firm for forcing drivers to shoulder all criminal liability if found to be driving passengers without a hire-care permit or third-party insurance.

He said it was unfair considering the company charged very high commissions of about 25 per cent for every fare.

I understand why Uber is giving up on its taxi services because it is a free service for cabbies, not a profit-making business
Ricky, Uber driver

“I only work as a freelance for Uber and take jobs whenever the trip suits my own schedule. I really feel unsafe working for Uber as we have to take the risks. I will quit anytime,” he told the Post.

“The income is not good while drivers have to bear all the liabilities. I know many drivers who have the same fears. It is very risky for us if police are disguised as our customers.”

He said while Uber had advised drivers that it had insurance to allow them to carry passengers, no details or paperwork had yet been provided.

“We are not bound by any contracts with Uber and there is not even a responsible person from the firm that can answer our enquiries. Any communication must be made through emails.”

Another UberBlack driver surnamed Li said despite him owning his own vehicle, the high commissions paid to the company made the salaries worse than that of a cleaning worker.

Sunny’s concerns come a day after Uber announced it will cease its Hong Kong van ­and taxi services from Monday in an effort to shift focus back onto its ride-sharing platforms UberX and UberBlack.

The decision to discontinue the local non-core services comes after Uber also announced plans to pull out of the Macau market on September 9.

Taxi driver Ricky said that over the past two months, his workload from people using the Uber app had decreased by half.

“I could foresee that Uber was going to halt its taxi services because it stopped hiring taxi drivers since February,” he said.

“I understand why Uber is giving up on its taxi services because it is a free service for cabbies, not a profit-making business. Still, it is a surprise and also a pity for me.”

Ricky also dispelled misconceptions that all cabbies treated Uber drivers as the enemy, saying both benefited from the service.

What’s it like to work for Uber? Hong Kong drivers tell the human story behind the ride-sharing app

“Only taxi owners do not welcome Uber. For cabbies who rent a taxi, they have the Uber channel to introduce them to customers for free. Uber only brings benefits to us.”

Ricky believed UberTaxi service, which provided commission-free app services, attracted more drivers and users to sign up for its car-hailing platform.

The Post took both an UberTaxi and UberBlack trip of similar length.

After booking an UberTaxi ride with a HK$15 surcharge, no car had arrived after five minutes. However, when the Post switched its reservation to a ride with a HK$30 surcharge, a car was immediately available.

Both trips charged a similar amount of about HK$80. The difference was that the UberTaxi driver received the entire fare while the UberBlack driver was charged a commission of about 25 per cent for using a luxury vehicle.

In August last year, five Uber drivers were arrested for not having permits and driving without third-party insurance. Police also raided the company’s offices in Hong Kong after complaints from local taxi drivers.

Two of the seven drivers were fined and had their licences suspended for one year.