Earlier this week, The Verge's Casey Newton published exclusive details of Uber's "Operation SLOG," an aggressive campaign aimed at recruiting drivers away from its competitor Lyft. Now the company claims that Lyft drivers taking calls from SLOG recruiters saw their hourly earnings drop by as much as 48 percent, as a result of unusually short rides and a huge surge in cancelled pickups.
Under Operation SLOG, Uber contractors booked rides with Lyft drivers with the sole purpose of striking up a conversation and signing them up to work for Uber. (Drivers can work for both companies simultaneously, although this is discouraged.) These contractors were offered commissions as high as $750 for recruiting a single driver. They used burner phones and credit cards, and occasionally canceled rides, in order to avoid detection by Lyft.
Drivers in Orange County saw a 48 percent decline in hourly wages when Uber recruiters were on the job
According to the new numbers, Uber recruiters were also costing local Lyft drivers a lot of money. Lyft points to drivers in Orange County, who usually earn $36.20 per hour, but only averaged $18.60 per hour during the hours that Uber recruiters were on the job. That's a 48 percent decline in total. Other areas saw smaller declines, with a 12 percent decline in San Francisco and a 24 percent decline for drivers working the Los Angeles International Airport. Lyft also claims recruiters canceled roughly 85 percent of the rides they called, a huge source for the lost wages.
The practices could be grounds for a lawsuit, the high-profile tech attorney Ira Rothken told BuzzFeed. Lyft could argue that the Uber recruiters violated its terms of service, interfered with its existing contracts, or violated California's "Unfair Competition Law." Litigation seems unlikely, however, given the fact that both companies are still establishing their legitimacy in many parts of the country.