Uber has forced Google to remove a tool that helped drivers figure out if Uber underpaid them.
The creator of the Chrome extension ‘UberCheats’ Armin Samii said Uber claimed it violated its trademark. “Uber filed a false trademark claim against UberCheats, so it's been taken off the Chrome app store,” he said on Twitter. “They claim that people might confuse it for an actual Uber product.”
UberCheats was a Chrome extension that helped drivers figure out if they’d been underpaid by for Uber. Underpaying drivers is de rigueur for the rideshare app. In 2017, Uber admitted it had been underpaying drivers in the NYC area for two years and promised to pay drivers $900 each in compensation. It’s a problem compounded by the fact that Uber offsets its operation costs by making drivers pay for them, which often makes it hard for Uber’s drivers to make money at all.
Samii’s app helped keep Uber accountable, kept drivers informed, and was incredibly simple. “Sometimes Uber calculates the distance from point A to point B incorrectly,” he told Motherboard in an email. “My guess is that they use the ‘straight line’ distance rather than the actual distance traveled. In my area, that has led to a ‘6 minute trip’ taking 50 minutes, since they thought I could...fly, I guess? Technically, the app is quite simple. It looks at the start/end destination of the trip, plugs it into google maps, and checks to see if the distance you were paid for matches the distance Google says.”
According to Samii, he got the idea for the app after a grueling delivery for UberEats. He got a notification for a six minute trip. “I'm on a bike, so I know that usually means between 10 and 20 minutes,” he said. “On this day, the trip took me up one of the steepest hills in Pittsburgh, about 4 miles total, and when I looked at my statement I was only paid for one mile. I was so frustrated—not for the few dollars I missed out on, but because I knew Uber was getting away with sneakily underpaying thousands of drivers and delivery people everywhere.”
Samii launched his Chrome extension in August 2020 and hadn’t had any problems keeping it online until now. In communication from Google he shared with Motherboard dated February 15, 2021, Google said it was removing UberCheats from its store because it “allegedly infringes upon the trademarks of others.”
In the email Samii showed Motherboard, Google forwarded the original complaint it received from Uber. “The application uses, without authorization, the mark Uber, a trademark owned and controlled by Uber Technologies, Inc. Any use by the application of the Infringing Marks constitutes a trademark infringement under Section 32 of the Lanham Act,” it said. “We ask that the app immediately cease using any Uber trademarks or any other name or mark which is likely to lead consumers to mistakenly believe that its products or services are associated with Uber or authorized by Uber.”
UberCheats could relaunch with a new name and continue just fine, but Samii said he won’t do that. "I plan to fight this,” he said. “I will not be bullied by corporate lawyers trying to scare the little guy. I am in the right, and they know it. I have appealed it with both Google and Uber.”
Uber declined to comment on this story.