The release of the Uber records sparked a frenzy of reaction around the world, pressuring top politicians, fueling calls for a crackdown on corporate lobbying and sparking outrage from groups such as traditional taxi drivers.
The fuse was lit with the publication of revelations of a trove of over 124,000 Uber documents spanning the period 2013 to 2017, leaked to the Guardian and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and international media .
The files, leaked by whistleblower Mark MacGann, revealed how Uber flouted laws, deceived police, exploited violence against drivers and secretly pressured governments during its aggressive global expansion.
Uber said it “does not and will not make excuses for past behavior that is clearly inconsistent with our current values,” distancing the modern company from its past actions.
But the political, regulatory and public response to Uber’s cases is still ongoing, and Uber – not to mention the people who helped grow it – is facing intense scrutiny in some of the world’s largest economies and markets. the most important of Uber.
Details of how President Emmanuel Macron jumped to the aid of Uber, as he pushed for entry into the taxi business in France, have led to calls from across the political spectrum for a parliamentary inquiry.
Opposition politicians and the left-wing CGT union seized on reports of undeclared secret meetings and the promise of a Macron-brokered “agreement” in government to help Uber.
A parliamentarian has described the revelations as a ‘state scandal’, amid calls from the far left and far right for Macron, who is already under intense pressure, to face an official investigation by a parliamentary committee.
Macron was defiant, saying he would “do it again tomorrow and the day after tomorrow”.
France’s new digital affairs minister, Jean-Noël Barrot, is expected to recuse himself from Uber-related matters, multiple sources have reported, because his sister Hélène Barrot is Uber’s European communications director.
“Investigations by private detectives on Brussels ministers, repeated breaches of sector regulations, destruction of data, obstruction of justice, possible tax evasion, filtering companies to circumvent Brussels legislation […] are all an attack on our rule of law and our democracy. ”
So said Ridouane Chahid, leader of the Belgian socialist party PS, who proposed a parliamentary inquiry.
Taxi drivers were already protesting Uber-friendly deregulation plans before the leak emerged. During recent protests in Naples, Milan and Rome, drivers held up banners reading “Fuck you Uber” and set off fireworks.
Dutch Deputy Finance Minister Marnix van Rij said he wanted to investigate whether Dutch tax authorities violated international agreements when dealing with Uber.
A spokesperson for the European Commission said the EC would write to Neelie Kroes, its former vice-president, after two dozen European politicians called for an investigation into suggestions she secretly helped Uber lobby the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, and a series of other Dutch national politicians.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said there should be greater transparency around corporate lobbying, after Uber records revealed the company tried, unsuccessfully, to convince the Fine Gael-led coalition in 2015 and 2016 to relax taxi regulations.
Left-wing Barcelona mayor Ada Colau has welcomed the revelations in Uber’s records, saying they served to “unmask” the company.
She told El País that the company had tried to “disguise themselves as innovators and small independents” when in reality they were “crooks”. Yolanda Díaz, Spain’s second deputy prime minister and labor minister, said the leak was a matter “of the utmost gravity”.
In Finland, Uber’s records created a political scandal after it emerged that former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb had met with Uber executives on several occasions when he was Prime Minister and Finance Minister. The company was lobbying to change long-standing Finnish taxi regulations. Eventually, Stubb resigned as prime minister in 2015 after losing his position as chairman of the Coalition party. There is no indication that Uber’s lobbying was successful.
In the entire Europe
German MEP Daniel Freund has written to European Parliament President Roberta Metsola asking her to investigate Uber’s lobbying practices in Brussels.
Politicians in the European Parliament had already been working on a proposal that would reclassify millions of gig economy workers as employees, rather than independent contractors, conferring rights such as the minimum wage. Amid a debate over what the final proposals would look like, Uber’s filings have given fresh impetus to left-wing factions pushing for tougher labor laws, according to a Politico report.
In India, one of the places where Uber used a “kill switch” to cut off access to company data during raids by authorities, the law could change in response to revelations about Uber. The Indian Express reported that the government is considering new rules.
“It’s pretty obvious to most people that the big tech platforms use technology to game both the system and the consumers, and have escaped scrutiny by constantly showering themselves with innovation,” said Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of Electronics and IT.
Unions have also demanded action. The Indian Federation of App-Based Transport Workers (IFAT) has filed a “public interest litigation” in the Supreme Court, calling for new laws to protect workers in the on-demand economy.
The majority of questionable behavior revealed by Uber records took place outside the UK, but Transport for London said it was investigating allegations that MacGann informed it of concerns about Uber in 2020 but were ignored .
Most of the revelations in Uber’s filings relate to Europe, but they have caught the attention of U.S. organizations lobbying for the rights of gig workers. Referring to concerns about driver safety, Gig Workers Rising wrote, “The story these documents tell is horrific: Uber appears to have encouraged drivers to put themselves in dangerous situations when it benefited their bottom line.”
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