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Uber and Lyft go prank calling each other

I find this pretty funny, in a juvenile-delinquent sort of way.

Uber

Uber employees have ordered and canceled more than 5,000 rides from rival Lyft since last October, according to new data provided by Lyft. The data was obtained at CNNMoney’s request when reporting another story on the companies’ competition.

It’s the latest in a pattern of aggressive and questionable tactics by Uber to control the car-on-demand market, according to rivals.

And it’s not just a rogue employee or two: Lyft claims 177 Uber employees around the country have booked and canceled rides in that time frame.

Bogus requests decrease Lyft drivers’ availability, which could send users to Uber instead. But it’s not just the company that suffers. Canceled rides jeopardize income that Lyft drivers depend on — plus they spend time and gas money en route to passengers who have no intention of taking a ride.

And even when Uber employees don’t cancel, Lyft drivers complain to headquarters that they take short, low-profit rides largely devoted to luring them to work for Uber.

Lyft

Lyft claims to have cross-referenced the phone numbers associated with known Uber recruiters with those attached to accounts that have canceled rides. They found, all told, 5,560 phantom requests since October 3, 2013.

There was nothing to suggest that Uber’s corporate office commissioned the canceled rides or even that they were aware of them.

One Lyft passenger, identified by seven different Lyft drivers as an Uber recruiter, canceled 300 rides from May 26 to June 10. That user’s phone number was tied to 21 other accounts, for a total of 1,524 canceled rides.

Another Uber recruiter created 14 different accounts responsible for 680 cancellations.

A single account from a Los Angeles-based Uber representative canceled 49 rides from October through mid-April.

According to Lyft drivers, identifiable by trademark pink mustaches on the hood of their cars, some Uber recruiters may be trying to conceal their identity (which would be consistent with creating dozens of accounts linked to the same phone number). An Uber employee whose phone number was tied to 102 cancellations was reported as using a different name on his account than the one he used in the car.

It’s not the first time Uber has been accused of canceling rides on a competing service. Earlier this year, CNNMoney reported that Uber staffers in New York called and withdrew over 100 ride requests with another taxi app, Gett, in the span of three days. After that incident, Uber said in a statement that they would “tone down their sales tactics.”

Well, the Dale Carnegie way isn’t exactly Uber’s style. I laugh at the absurdity of all this, but I imagine it’s not so funny for the drivers that are getting punked. Of course, now Uber is saying that Lyft has done the same to them.

Today Uber accused Lyft of the same “shady tactics,” alleging that Lyft drivers and employees, including a cofounder, had canceled nearly 13,000 trips on Uber.

Furthermore, Uber provided some inside baseball about what’s happening behind the scenes between the two companies. It claims that Lyft investors have been urging Uber to buy its competitors, and that it had been warned Lyft would “go nuclear” if that didn’t happen.

The allegations come as the competitive environment has heated up between the two companies, as each tries to grab market share in a number of cities around the country. That means getting both passengers and drivers on board as demand heats up for transportation you can hail with a mobile app.

For instance, Lyft recently launched a new product in San Francisco called Lyft Line that allows multiple passengers to share and split a fare between them. But Uber announced its own competitive product the day before Lyft’s announcement.

Uber claims that Lyft’s investors are trying to force Uber to acquire Lyft, which Lyft denies. The two companies have been trying to steal each others’ thunder in other ways as well. All of this reminds me of this:

And just to bring it all back to Houston, The Highwayman reminds us that even though Council has passed an ordinance allowing Uber and Lyft to operate here, it doesn’t take effect until November. Until then, the same prohibition on charging for rides without a taxi license is in place, and the citations that Uber and Lyft drivers have racked up so far aren’t going away without some kind of mass plea bargain. So figure that we’re good for at least one more story about that here before the gates are officially opened. Thanks to Techblog for the heads up.

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