An Auckland man has seen his Uber and Uber Eats accounts banned worldwide for two years after a driver allegedly filed a "fake report" of damages to the vehicle after a ride.
Uber has now admitted the ban was "an oversight" but the man was still locked out of his account for two years over the incident, despite providing Uber with audio recording of the driver saying he was going to "create the damage" to make the passenger pay or it.
The man, who asked not to be identified, described to the Herald how, along with some friends, he requested a ride from Avondale to Kingsland during a night out in 2018.
"We were waiting for the fourth passenger in our journey. We had not been waiting for longer than a few minutes before the Uber driver became unnecessarily aggressive and started swearing at us about the situation, telling us we were wasting his time," the man recalled.
"A fifth person asked to enter the vehicle and the driver told her that he would not overload so she left and shut the door firmly while walking away but nothing excessively."
This is, the man said, when the problem escalated.
"The driver was already overly aggravated, swearing and abusing us about how that 'stupid girl slammed his door and wasted his time'. When we told him the girl did not slam the door with force or at all intentionally he became irate and started threatening to drop us off on the motorway.
"This is where he started speeding up to dangerous speeds and slowing right down quickly. He continually cursed at us saying he did not care and started threatening us, claiming 'we did not know who we were dealing with'," he said.
The man recalled how the driver became "so aggressive" that one of his friends decided to start "recording the situation".
"We tried to calm the driver down, but he started threatening that he would create damage if there was none. The recording captured this."
It is in that recording that a man, allegedly the driver, can be heard saying he will make up that there is some damage to the car, to make the customers pay for it.
The Herald has listened to a clip from that audio file. A person, allegedly the driver, can be heard saying "there is damage", which another man, a passenger, denies. "I'll create it," the driver responds.
"You'll create it?" the passenger asks.
"Yeah, I'll create it," the man responds.
According to the passenger, "after we were finally dropped off, we checked the door and there was no damage".
The man says the ordeal was "very traumatic" and "quite frankly left us feeling scared, shook and appalled that a person of this calibre could have a licence to drive an Uber, let alone at all".
"Then I got an email saying something about how they'd received a complaint that was like a warning and then a week after that, I wasn't checking my emails or using Uber, so a week or two after that went to use it and it didn't work," the man recalled.
"I thought it was a login error at first. So I checked my account and two weeks prior I had a warning email and then a week later another one saying they were going to ban me."
There was also a message from Uber looking to charge the man $1403 for damages.
He says one of the messages he received from Uber about the incident referred to photos of the damage "attached" but he was never able to open the attached files. "Maybe they had expired or something, I don't know how their messaging system works."
The Herald saw the correspondence between the man and Uber.
In one of the messages, Uber told him that a driver informed them that he and another passenger on the trip had damaged the vehicle.
"Your driver has submitted a report and repair quote in the amount of $1403 to fix the damage. Based on the content of the report, we believe this cost is fair and reasonable. Photos of this damage are attached for your consideration and a copy of the quote can be provided upon request," the email said.
"To assist the driver, we are requesting reimbursement from you in the amount of $1403. Please write back with your acceptance so that we can process the payment from the method listed on your account. Or if you feel this report is in error, let us know."
The man didn't see this message immediately and, three days later, received another message from Uber:
"I need to let you know that Uber will no longer facilitate communication or any further resolution attempts between you, any other responsible party or the people involved in this incident," the message said.
"In this instance, we have taken the decision to permanently ban your Uber account as a result of this outcome. This ban operates on Uber worldwide.
"In the event that you accept the previous damage payment request, or we receive a notification that the matter has been appropriately resolved, we may reconsider your account access."
It took a while for the man to notice this message as well and, by then, his account had been banned.
He sent Uber his own version of the incident. The company told the man their initial decision still stood and his account would be banned unless he paid $1403 for the damage.
The Auckland man says the money was never taken from his account but, bizarrely, there was a charge of $55.77 on his credit card from Uber after his account had been banned.
"Uber make it extremely difficult to get in touch with them and I can't even dispute this or the $55.77 charge that they have charged me on the 17th June [this year] as I need an account to dispute anything," he said.
Unable to get in touch with them online, he says he has visited their Auckland offices, only to be told it is "a hub for drivers, not for passengers".
"It's really frustrating because I didn't do anything wrong and he obviously got away with," he said.
Uber says account ban was 'an oversight
Contacted by the Herald, Uber says they have now reviewed the incident and, after two years of failed attempts by the user, have reinstated his account.
"When we receive a complaint from either a rider or driver-partner, we may temporarily remove one or both parties access to the app while we look into the matter and contact both parties," a spokesperson said.
The company said they tried contacting the man multiple times following the initial report to get his account of events. "When there was no response to these attempts, his access to the Uber apps was suspended."
The spokesperson said, however, that when the man contacted them again in January this year, an inquiry "should have been escalated to a dedicated team for review".
"Due to an oversight, this did not occur but we have now reviewed his case and reinstated his access to the Uber and Uber Eats apps."
The Herald understands the driver no longer works for Uber.