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New York City may force Uber to allow in-app tipping

by Carter Sherman
Apr 17 2017, 9:59pm

Monday brought even more bad news for Uber, which has suffered a series of devastating scandals and setbacks in recent weeks: New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission granted a petition by the Independent Driver’s Guild to create a rule forcing ride-hailing services to add in-app tipping — a change Uber has long resisted.

As part of a settlement for two class-action suits brought by drivers last year, Uber wrote a blog post clarifying the company’s stance on tipping. Uber didn’t want to provide in-app tipping, it wrote, because it “felt it would be better for riders and drivers to know for sure what they would pay or earn on each trip — without the uncertainty of tipping.”

Uber also argued that tipping might lead passengers “to tip certain types of people better than others,” or to drivers spending more time in wealthier areas whose denizens could yield better tips. Plus, the company said, Uber drivers can always accept cash tips from passengers.

But apparently the company failed to convince New York City. More than 11,000 people signed a guild petition asking the commission to consider the tipping rule. It probably didn’t help that Lyft, a ride-hailing competitor that does offer in-app tipping, announced last month its drivers had earned more than $200 million in gratuities.

“New York City’s professional drivers have long depended on gratuities for a substantial portion of their income,” said guild founder Jim Conigliaro Jr. in a statement. “Cuts to driver pay across the ride-hailing industry has made tipping income more important than ever. The exploitation of ride-hail drivers must end and this is an important step.”

An Uber spokesperson said the company had not yet seen the proposed rule, which is not yet in effect.

“Uber is always striving to offer the best earning opportunity for drivers and we are constantly working to improve the driver experience,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding that Uber has worked with a New York City drivers union to support drivers.