What Does the Uber/Autocab Buyout Mean for Private Hire Operators?

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Uber have recently announced that they have purchased Autocab.

Full details are hard to come by, but needless to say there is considerable alarm in the Private Hire community about the implications of Uber taking ownership of a dispatch system that runs hundreds of Private Hire fleets across the UK.

This news raises some very big questions about independence, ownership of passengers and data, driver relationships, margins, motives and much more.

Here is a sample of questions being asked by Autocab operators and taxi firm owners today…

1. Anti-Competition – For many Private Hire Operators, Uber has long been the enemy. Now they will own a dispatch system provider that is used by businesses competing against Uber.

Is that a conflict of interest or even potentially a way to remove a competitor from the marketplace? The BBC has already contacted the Competition and Markets Authority for comment.

2. Compulsory Booking Aggregator – With Autocab being owned by Uber, does that mean that every Autocab customer will now be compelled to join a new booking aggregator – Uber?

3. Booking Fees – Booking aggregators take a share of fares; that’s their business model. Uber typically rakes 25% off the top of a fare from its drivers, so how much will they keep from fares booked through Uber but “given” to Autocab drivers?

Passengers in an area where Uber doesn’t operate simply search for a cab company in that area so those drivers keep 100%. Those same passengers will now be able to book with Uber (because Autocab fleets are automatically available?).

Does this mean that your drivers are now 25% worse off and you have just lined Uber’s pockets?

4. Retaining Drivers – You have spent enormous time, effort, and money to build your business and your fleet. Will drivers become so used to working with Uber that they see moving to them as a natural step in the future?

5. Data Acquisition – It takes a lot of investment and time to build a passenger base that, until now, Autocab customers have fought fiercely to protect.

Will Uber have automatic access to this data now that they own Autocab, meaning they will know everything they need to in order to decide when to move into your area in direct competition with you, including the information required to market to your passengers?

6. Passenger App – Private Hire operators want their passengers to sign up for their Passenger App to protect their business and build customer loyalty.

Will customers now use Uber instead of a firm’s own passenger app? Will this eat away at your hard-won customer base?

7. “Unfair” Offers to Win Passengers – Let’s not beat about the bush, Uber have lost £billions with their “whatever it takes” policies, which have caused controversy all over the world.

How will Autocab fleets be able to compete with passenger offers that happily lose money just to “buy their custom”?

8. Uber Just Out for Themselves – in Autocab’s own literature, they said this about Uber’s rise:

“Uber have made quite a few enemies, upset entire cities and burnt through a tremendous amount of cash with some very cavalier business practices and sometimes blatant disregard for both governments and people who attempt to stand in their way.” *

9. What Exactly Has Autocab Sold? – Uber and Autocab have both been very sketchy on the details. They appear to be withholding vital information from Autocab fleets, the industry, and the public. Therefore, one of the biggest questions is surely “What exactly have Uber been sold?”.

What might Autocab customers have had traded away to Uber as part of the deal? Their data? Their customer app? Their individual pricing? Their drivers? Their independence?

10. A Deal With the Devil? – At this stage at least, can anyone objectively come up with any way this could turn out to be beneficial in the long term for independent Private Hire Operators?

These are no doubt just a handful of the many questions Autocab customers will have right now.

Another Future?

If you are an Autocab customer who is alarmed, angry, or disappointed by the whole situation, maybe we can offer you another future?

At iCabbi, we are 100% behind independent Private Hire firms and Fleet Operators, and our dispatch system supports those that choose to operate their business that way, without the potential interference and conflict of a direct competitor.

So, if you simply cannot see a future with Uber/Autocab, contact us to chat about joining the iCabbi family.

Our friendly team are here to answer any questions you may have, and our dedicated switching team are on standby to help you move quickly and hassle-free.

Call us on 01623 44 22 11, email us, or contact us via our website.

*Combating Uber – A guide for private hire taxi firms & drivers – Hassan Abod.