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Uber expands its in-app tipping option to the UK

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Uber is bringing its in-app tipping option to the UK, TechCrunch reports. Starting this week, riders will be given the option to tip their drivers (or UberEats couriers) in the app at the end of the trip. This both preserves Uber’s cashless philosophy, while also blunting criticism that its tone deaf to the concerns of its drivers. The rollout in the UK comes a little more than a month after Uber first launched its in-app tipping option in the US and Canada.

The inclusion of in-app tipping is a major reversal for the embattled ride-hail company. For years, Uber has resisted including a tipping option in its app, even as major rivals like Lyft boasted of the millions of dollars in tips being distributed to its drivers. But after a series of major scandals, including revelations about pervasive sexual harassment and a toxic work environment, and the loss of some of its marketshare, executives at Uber finally changed course this summer and decided to allow tipping.

Tipping is not expected in the UK the way it is in the US and other countries. Still, it’s customary to round up to the nearest pound on metered taxi journeys, more as a convenience to the driver than as a tip. Uber drivers in the UK, many of whom are immigrants, are under fire from the country’s mostly native-born cab drivers. It’s unclear whether the inclusion of a tipping option will upset that balance. There are an estimated 40,000 Uber drivers in London, almost twice the number of traditional cabbies.

The inclusion of a tipping option was not universally welcomed by drivers. "This is a cynical PR move ahead of Uber's appeal next month against last year's employment tribunal ruling in favor of drivers," said James Farrar, chair of the United Private Hire Drivers subsidiary of the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain, according to the BBC.

In addition, Uber’s new “pay for wait” program, in which customers will be charged a fee if the driver is still waiting two minutes after arriving at the pickup location, will be active in the UK starting today. Previously, Uber had been giving passengers a five-minute window before applying a surcharge.