Exclusive: Uber Offered Woman Credit in Response to Sexual Harassment Allegation

An illustration picture shows the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign in Frankfurt, September 15, 2014. Kai Pfaffenbach/REUTERS

Uber offered a woman £20 ($31) credit after she reported being sexually harassed during a journey in London, it’s been revealed.

In an email exchange seen by Newsweek, the female passenger first notified the company of the driver’s misconduct saying: “Driver was very forward and quite creepy. Asked me if I wanted him to go down on me. Not cool.”

She received a reply from a marketing manager who apologized for the “intrusive experience” and said that their driver operations manager was “already investigating this with [the driver] and I can assure you that the necessary actions will be taken to avoid a similar incident in future”.

The email concluded by thanking the women “for raising this with us - while painful to hear, it's the best way for us to address any incidents like this”.

However, the female passenger, dissatisfied with this response, then wrote back with a longer explanation of the incident, which took place in March this year. She described how, having initially got in the back of the cab the driver invited her to sit in the front, which she agreed to do, feeling car sick. He then started asking about her relationship status before using increasingly inappropriate language:

“Towards the end of the journey he was asking if I liked blow jobs, saying that he was very good at going down on girls or giving "sucky sucky" to girls and did I want him to do it to me. He even suggested that he could pull over into a side street and do it now if I wanted, which was I think the scariest part of the drive.”

She detailed how, as a woman alone in the car, she felt very uncomfortable and if she hadn’t trusted the Uber name she would have got out the car. She concluded the email:

“I am aware that this kind of thing becomes very much a he-said, she-said kind of deal, but I did want to make you aware of it as I feel that people really trust the Uber name (as I do) and my trust was completely violated. I am pretty relaxed and outgoing and I feel that I can take care of myself, and if I felt so uncomfortable I dread to think how a more timid girl would have felt. I won't be taking this any further but I do implore you to take this quite seriously as I worry for other women who could find themselves in a similar situation.”

A different Uber marketing manager responded by apologising again, saying that they were “shocked” to hear of her experience. The email then tried to assure the woman that “while things like this should definitely not happen in the first place, in the unlikely event that they do occur we have the full details of the driver, trip and rider on our systems so that we can immediately investigate any concerns raised.”

She went on to say that the trip had been refunded and £20 had been credited to her account “in hope that you will give us a second chance”. The email was signed off: “Sorry again for such an un-Uber experience.”

The woman heard nothing more of the case from Uber.

Newsweek contacted Uber to ask if offering credit to passengers in these circumstances was a company policy. “We take all allegations incredibly seriously,” a spokesman replied.

“Any driver who is accused of acting inappropriately is suspended from the platform while an investigation is undertaken. We would of course refund a trip if an incident had occurred or the rider was not happy.”

The company could not confirm that the driver had been fired, only commenting that the “driver in question is no longer on the Uber platform”. Due to the company’s privacy policy they “don’t divulge the measures taken in relation to either driver partners or riders on the Uber system”, so it remains unclear if the driver lost his contract as a direct result of the stated case.

When asked how many investigations and cases like this Uber London deals with every year and month the spokesperson declined to disclose the figures. When asked if it was an official policy to give credit if the driver has been sexually explicit to a passenger, he replied:

“Fortunately incidences of this nature are so rare that an official policy is not needed. Any incident is handled on a case-by-case basis and taken very seriously. We do of course often refund a trip after a negative experience of any sort, as our customers expect only the highest standard of service from Uber.”

Several other women told Newsweek that they had experienced unwanted advances in Uber cabs in London, including a woman who was offered a massage by her driver four times in the course of a journey late at night, despite giving a firm ‘no’ on each occasion. Despite feeling “very uncomfortable and unsafe”, she didn’t file a complaint with the company.

This is not the first case of a passenger being given credit when they’ve complained over the conduct of an Uber driver. In November Alexandra Craigle, a woman from New York suffering from cancer, reportedly received abusive texts and voicemails from her Uber driver after cancelling the taxi ride home from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where she was receiving radiation treatment.

Having explained she had the disease and that she’d cancelled the trip in order to go collect her scarf, the driver replied: “Yeah right I think you deserve what happened to you with such a character.” She also says he left her a voicemail calling her an “animal”. Uber reportedly contacted her and offered her $30 credit in compensation.

Valued at $40 billion in its last round of funding, the taxi app has grown exponentially since its launch in 2009 - it operates in 250 cities across 50 countries. But the Uber has come under fire recently following the alleged rape of a passenger in Delhi by a driver, leading to it being banned in the city. Spain, Thailand and the Netherlands have also prohibited the app in the last few weeks.

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