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My platform, my rules: What Uber’s community guidelines really mean for Uber, its drivers and its users

Earlier today, Uber published a set of updated community guidelines laying out as explicitly as is possible (for private companies and platforms anyway, given the opaque manner in which they function) what would lead to a driver and rider being kicked off the platform. One could read this move as unprecedented, given that Uber has generally been tight-lipped about its algorithms (fair game), rider and driver ratings, and other functionalities on the platform.

Uber users may have been well aware that drivers could (sometimes) be kicked off for inappropriate behaviour, unsafe driving, etc, but we’re positive that they didn’t know what would lead to a cancellation of a rider account (behaviour like damaging property, touching other riders or drivers, breaking the law etc.).

No imbalance, but a level playing field of consequences

However, Uber must be lauded in taking this step towards publicly updating its guidelines. Uber is right to say that its ecosystem depends on both the drivers and the riders. While riders have always had the option to give drivers a poor rating, ask for a refund (good luck with that), and raise an issue about a driver, drivers may not always have had that privilege beyond providing a poor rating for the user. Yes, they could probably complain to the call centre, but what action Uber took after that was unknown.

In order to have a balanced business driven by repeat usage and demand, Uber has to ensure that even riders know the consequences of their behaviours. Uber is, then, right to create a fair and fairly transparent playing field between drivers and riders, in order to keep this service going.

One, this lets the ‘bad user’ problem weed itself out: the company needn’t intervene unless absolutely necessary (data of course tells a pattern), and two, drivers also feel that they’re not being treated unfairly by being the only ones bearing the brunt of consequences for their service, and not the riders for their behaviours.

Uber’s set of rules are mostly the same for riders and drivers.

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Drivers’ complaints

In my conversations with multiple Uber drivers across the country, most have commonly complained that users make them drive to lanes and gullies where even taking a bike could cause a rift in space-time. This is usually followed with complaints of obnoxious behaviour like slamming doors, talking really loudly, changing the radio channels frequently and the likes. This behaviour may be further off-putting if someone is pooling with this rider.

With these bad-behaviour consequences in place, Uber hopes to let the problem take care of itself. Readers must note that this is a rather sticky situation for Uber as well, and we imagine that the company will be very very careful before it delists any users for the fear of not just being sued, but also because its business depends on riders hailing cabs.


Further reading

Written By

I'm a MediaNama alumna from 2015-16 (remember TinyOwl?) now back to cover e-services like food and grocery delivery, app based transport and policies, platforms and media in India.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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