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Uber Begins to Allow Drivers to Set Their Own Fares in Newest AB 5 Changes

New feature may end up benefiting Uber in lawsuit

By Evan Symon, January 21, 2020 5:09 pm

Uber began testing driver-set fares in three California cities on Tuesday in the latest change the rideshare company has made in the wake of AB 5.

Tests in Sacramento, Santa Barbara, and Palm Springs

Rideshare passengers using Uber in the initial test areas of Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, and Sacramento may be charged up to five times the normal price for a ride in increments of 10%. If successful, Uber would then implement this move statewide, with other rideshare companies such as Lyft likely to follow Uber’s new rule as well. While no dates are set, it is likely a full roll out would happen sometime before any major AB 5 court dates that the rideshare company is currently part of.

Much like the recent app changes Uber has made, the ability for drivers to set their own fares helps build their case that drivers are truly ‘independent’ in an upcoming lawsuit that may overturn AB 5. Uber and other rideshare companies would need to show that driver’s setting their own fares have indeed made them more ‘independent and autonomous’.

Outrage from AB 5 supporters

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Supporters of AB 5 have ridiculed Uber’s new policy. AB 5 author Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) has retweeted tweets saying words against Uber’s new policy, such as “Why not 6 times? @uber Just follow the law.” AB 5 supporter and Uber driver Miguel Gomez of Los Angeles also expressed similar sentiments.

“Uber is just trying to make us look like we’ve always been the boss,” said Miguel, who had gone to many rallies in Los Angeles and Sacramento in support of AB 5. “All this does is either screw people over, especially those with little money, or it will make getting a customer that much more harder.”

“I live in Boyle Heights, so each night that I start I know I won’t be getting someone who can afford a much more expensive drive later on. But after that, how would I know? If a game lets out and I can choose a lot more do I know if it’s a rich fan or a fan who scrimped and saved? I mean, I can look at where they’re going, but now I would just be biased. Or if we saw their name. Some names are a dead giveaway on race. Some drivers who are racist could just decide to charge more.”

“I hope Uber has some safeguards against this, but if they don’t, this can lead to some waiting disasters.”

Praise from those against AB 5

Those who oppose AB 5 have said that the new policy is great for drivers and the company.

“Usually during peak times or for special events it charges more, but now we get to decide on if a longer trip is worth more or if a delay makes it worth more, or, well, there are lots of options,” said Uber and Lyft driver Gareth Buchanan. “A bonus to this is that it helps out in the lawsuit. It helps prove that we’re really independent contractors who deserve to be flexible and can set their own whatever and not employees.”

“I’m in college right now, and AB 5, man, under the old system it was perfect. Now it just feels like we’re getting robbed. And it was supposed to help us, but it didn’t.”

“This gives us the chance at more money at the same time helping bring it down. It’s a two-for-one deal.”

The new changes are expected to have an effect on current AB 5 removing initiatives that Uber is currently a part of. One is a possible proposition vote in November that Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and Postmates are currently trying to get enough signatures for. The other is the previously mentioned Uber and Postmates lawsuit.

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