Lyft Drivers Say Uber’s|Fake Calls Cost Them

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A Lyft driver sued Uber this week, claiming the ride-hailing service mounted an effort to crush Lyft and recruit its drivers by making phony service calls to Lyft drivers from fake accounts.
     The class action, filed May 16 in San Francisco Superior Court, is Courthouse News’ top download for Wednesday.
     According to multiple online reports, internally Uber called its effort to quash Lyft “Operation SLOG.” As initially reported by CNN in August 2014, Lyft claimed to have hard evidence of 5,560 phantom requests over 10 months tied to Uber recruiters.
     One phone number alone was tied to 21 separate accounts that had canceled 1,524 rides, according to the CNN report. One Lyft passenger, identified by seven different Lyft drivers as an Uber recruiter, canceled 300 rides within two weeks.
     Weeks after CNN first reported the story, uncovered more dirt. Interviews with contractors and emails revealed Uber’s system: Using Uber-provided iPhones and credit cards, the contractors hailed rides and attempted to sign up drivers before they arrived at their destination.
     Contractors were paid as much as $750 in commission for a successful recruitment. The rides often had to be canceled, for instance, when a driver showed up who had already refused recruitment. They would also end well short of their supposed destination if the recruitment offer was refused, reported.
     One email obtained by the website linked to an online form for requesting burner phones, credit cards, and driver kits. The form listed 10 cities including Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Miami, and Washington.
     “You Must Fill Out This Form Below In Order To Start This Process. Then it’s all the little Lyfts your heart’s desire. #shavethestache,” the online form read. Lyft cars are recognized by having a big pink mustache on the front bumper or grill.
     Plaintiff Ryan Smyth says in his class action that the canceled calls not only cost him money to run down, but the time involved also prevented him from picking up actual riders. Lyft drivers and their passengers were both affected by the SLOG campaign, Smyth says.
     “Uber Technologies did this to discourage Lyft drivers from contracting with Lyft, to deprive the marketplace of Lyft drivers so that Uber drivers could benefit, and to create a higher wait time for Lyft customers in order to steer their patronage to Uber Technologies in violation of California Business and Professions Code,” Smyth says in the lawsuit.
     Smyth seeks class certification, nominal, compensatory and punitive damages and restitution for unfair business practices under California law and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.
     He is represented by Jeffrey Fulton, as well as R. Parker White and William Brelsford Jr. of the firm Poswall, White and Brelsford. Both firms are in Sacramento, California.
     The attorneys did not respond to emails requesting comment by press time.
     Uber’s media representatives also did not return an email seeking comment by press time.

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