From New York to Seattle, Uber recently celebrated Earth Day with city-specific promotions such as discounts and competitions in which winners will receive free transit passes and free Uber rides. Meanwhile, from a less fuzzy, more battlefront angle, Uber’s suing the city of Houston. The on-demand-ride app company hopes to prevent the release of records revealing how many Uber drivers are licensed there and how the company operates in the state.
The Huffington Post reports that the records — journalists requested them, prompting the suit — would reveal how Uber “skirt regulations” that apply to typical taxi services, as the company revs up to move deeper into the Texas market and reach 27 million potential customers. Uber reps say releasing the records would give an advantage to competitors such as Lyft.
“Uber is a private company and as such, information about driver partners is considered confidential and proprietary,” Uber spokeswoman Debbee Hancock told HuffPost.
One of the journalists asking for the info counters: “Nobody is asking for profit margins or anything like that. It’s very basic information. There’s a public safety concern, in that the whole rationale for a city being able to regulate vehicles for hire is so the public can know who’s on the road.”
A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the “sharing economy” noted that client trust in such services — or lack of it — is a major factor for companies who are chasing after business in what PwC predicts will be a $335 billion industry by 2025.
Uber’s legal team never rests. Both it and Lyft are facing separate trials in California over whether drivers should be considered contractors or employees.
Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.