Uber not being upfront about upfront fares, drivers say

It’s no secret that only a portion of what you pay for an Uber ride makes it to your driver. But Uber drivers are complaining that, even after deductions are accounted for, they’re still being shortchanged on certain fares.

Ride-sharing giant says drivers are paid fairly based on time and distance

Uber driver John Peart says that he's not being paid properly for certain trips. (CBC)

It's no secret that only a portion of what you pay for an Uber ride makes it to your driver.

Uber pockets 25 per cent of each fare as well as the flat $2.50 "booking fee" it charges every rider.

But Uber drivers are complaining that, even after those deductions are accounted for, they're still being shortchanged on some trips.

A screen shot of a recent fare settlement between Uber and driver Syed Ghaffoor. Uber eventually paid what Ghaffoor was owed, but he says the company provided no explanation for the mistake. (Syed Ghaffoor)

"I feel I'm being nickeled and dimed," Uber driver John Peart said in an interview with CBC Toronto.

In most cases, it's actually nothing more than a few nickels and dimes that drivers allege they're being denied, but they say it adds up.

"If you keep ignoring this you're probably getting robbed $10 to $15 a day," another Uber driver, Syed Ghaffoor, said.

In a statement, Susie Heath, spokesperson for Uber Canada, said "In terms of driver payments, earnings are based on a per-mile, per-minute rate as they've always been."

Drivers say that's the problem: they're being paid based on the actual time and distance of a trip while customers are billed based on an estimate.

Upfront fares

Last fall, Uber introduced upfront fares.

Under the new system, Uber customers agree to pay a fare calculated in advance, based on distance, estimated time, traffic conditions and demand.

"No surprises. No math" is how the ride-sharing company announced the change, which now means customers know the full cost of a trip before they even get in the car.

But drivers say that because they're still paid based on the actual distance and time of a trip, small discrepancies can arise.

With lighter than expected traffic or a shortcut, drivers say it's sometimes possible for a trip to take less time and distance than originally predicted by Uber.

The result, it's alleged, is that drivers are paid for the shorter trip, customers are billed for the original estimate, and Uber keeps the difference.

"It's very common for me," Ghaffoor said. "On the flip side, when a driver is stuck in traffic and the trip takes longer, Uber doesn't pay more."

'It's hard to remember every bloody drive'

Uber has a fare review system drivers can use when they believe they aren't getting paid enough.

According to those who've spoken with CBC Toronto, the system works and they get what they're owed, but it's a lot of effort.

"There are adjustments, but they're hard to figure out," Peart said. "You have to go back to your logs and really think about each drive. And if you've had a busy night, it's hard to remember every bloody drive."

Ghaffoor says fixing a fare discrepancy of a few dollars or less requires exchanging several emails with Uber staff and providing specific details about the trip.

"It's painstaking," he said.

Uber spokesperson Suzie Heath says that the upfront fare system provides more clarity for customers and drivers are paid fairly.

"We always work hard to ensure consistent driver earnings," Heath said in a statement.