By Max Towle of The Wireless
A young woman says she was propositioned by an Uber driver on Saturday night and then left on the side of the road, 20 minutes' walk from her home, after she turned down his advances.
The woman, in her late-20s, who has asked not to be named, said she ordered the Uber from Courtenay Place in Wellington about 2am.
"The ride started out like most Uber rides. I was sitting and happily chatting to my driver when he ever so casually said to me 'so, would you like to party with me?'," she said.
"In that situation it was clear to me that he was asking me to sleep with him."
She said she was initially shocked and didn't immediately respond.
"Apart from the fact my general friendliness had been in no way flirtatious or implied anything more than standard taxi small-talk, I was just taken aback by how it was super unprofessional and, let's face it - predatory," the woman said.
"So I just said 'no' and before I had time to process this anymore, he pulled over to the side of the road and said 'I think you should get out'."
She said she got out of the car, "partly out of shock, partly because I just didn't want to be there", and walked home.
She has laid a complaint with the ridesharing company and has been told it's being investigated.
When contacted by The Wireless, Uber did not specifically address the woman's complaint, but reiterated its guidelines, which include no "sexual conduct".
"Our community guidelines explain what behaviour is and isn't appropriate when using the app and what can get you banned from Uber, which includes any sexual contact whatsoever," the compnay said.
"We provide 24/7 customer support and ask for two-way feedback after every trip, which our safety team reviews and investigates any issues."
When asked how many complaints relating to harassment had been made in the past 12 months, Uber did not respond.
The woman said it's not the first time she has been made to feel uncomfortable in an Uber or taxi.
"Another time, in a regular taxi, I had the taxi driver lock the doors and say I wasn't allowed out until I gave him a New Year's kiss. It was such a creepy moment, I kind of felt relieved afterwards that he didn't ask for anything more," she said.
"I just wanted to deescalate the situation so it didn't get worse."
She said she wanted to share her story so it would heighten awareness for other women travelling at night.
"In my experience, especially after drinking, or when people assume you have been, is when I've seen and dealt with harassment," she said.
"Some people were surprised at the extent of #MeToo revelations, but the fact is that things like this happen far too often. I always make sure at least one friend knows where I am at all times, and when I'm travelling on public transport, I always now check the driver has some form of verification."
She said walking home on Saturday night became a massive relief - a relief that she was no longer in a confined space with the Uber driver.
As of October last year, Uber has required all its drivers to hold a Passenger endorsement license from the New Zealand Transport Agency.
This requires drivers to provide NZTA with police records from New Zealand and overseas, including records of any criminal history or complaints, traffic records of any infringements or fines, or a confirmation that the driver has no police or traffic records.