Uber’s aggressive market tactics spread it quickly. Image: Shutterstock
Uber’s strategy was clear from the start: get into markets quickly, operate with dubious legality, create a critical mass of demand, and deal with the consequences later.
Today, a treasure trove of more than 124,000 internal Uber files – including messages between executives and internal briefing notes – revealed the scope of the company’s bargain plan which involved publicizing the violence against drivers, close relationships with politicians and a total disregard for the law.
Mark MacGann, a former Uber lobbyist for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, shared the documents – dubbed the Uber Files – with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
The stories told by a consortium of journalists show a company that was desperate to gain a monopoly on global taxi services.
“The company’s approach in these places is basically to break the law, show how amazing Uber’s service was, and then change the law,” MacGann said. the Guardian.
“My job was to get above city officials, build relationships with the highest level of government and negotiate.”
As Uber spread across the globe, limited only by the availability of smartphones and volunteer drivers, it encountered resistance from regulators and governments, but especially traditional taxi drivers.
For licensed taxi drivers, Uber’s disruptive tactics – it heavily subsidized fares to attract customers and encouraged new drivers with bonuses – meant large numbers of potential customers were now jumping into unmarked cars with strangers with which they connected via an application.
One of MacGann’s greatest successes as a corporate lobbyist came in France. He had built a close relationship with Emmanuel Macron, the recently re-elected French president who was economy minister at the time of Uber’s incursion.
As in other markets, French taxi drivers have staged protests against unregulated Uber services that invade and charge people who pay exorbitant prices and undergo lengthy training to obtain a rare taxi license.
MacGann and other Uber executives, including former CEO Travis Kalanick, worked closely with French officials to draft favorable legislation and reverse what appeared to be a ban on the flagship UberX service in Marseille.
Macron had responded to MacGann’s call for help after the UberX ban saying “I’m going to look at this personally”.
Two days later, the ban was “clarified” – letting Uber continue operations – and MacGann celebrated “good cooperation” with Macron’s office.
“Violence guarantees success”
Meanwhile, protests against taxis in France turned violent and Kalanick saw an opportunity: Uber drivers and customers attacked in the streets would help the company’s image.
“If we have 50,000 runners, they won’t and can’t do anything,” he said in an exchange of messages, according to the Guardian.
“I think it’s worth it. Guarantee violence [sic] Hit.”
Attacks on drivers across Europe and South America were seen as valuable public relations for Uber.
Leaked files show a leader in Belgium, responding to violence against Uber drivers, saying it was a “good story”.
“A driver has already come forward to speak to the press: he had a bag full of flour thrown at him and passengers in a taxi,” said the Belgian leader of Uber.
“He filed a complaint and a taxi driver reportedly spent a night in jail… Good story.”
Violence in the Netherlands has also been used to support lobbying efforts. A Dutch Uber official said they should “keep the narrative of the violence going for a few days before coming up with the solution.”
MacGann, pleased with the results, replied, “Excellent work. It’s exactly what we wanted and the timing is perfect.
In a statement responding to the Uber Files, the company’s senior vice president of public affairs, Jill Hazelbaker, said Uber has put the past behind it.
“We have moved from an era of confrontation to an era of collaboration, demonstrating a willingness to come to the table and find common ground with former opponents, including unions and taxi companies,” he said. she declared.
“We are now regulated in over 10,000 cities around the world, working at all levels of government to improve the lives of those who use our platform and the cities we serve.”