Uber Sued Over Vehicle Restrictions For BlackSUV Service

Edward Siperavage filed a class action complaint on Tuesday in the District of New Jersey against Uber Technologies Inc. for allegedly not honoring its representations that certain vehicles could be used to drive for its more selective Uber BlackSUV platform, which the plaintiff claimed caused him to lose income.

On Uber, drivers’ pay per completed ride is based on a variety of factors. The plaintiff asserted that Uber controls its drivers’ work “by controlling the make, model, and year of vehicles which can be used for transporting passengers.” Uber has different service levels based on the type of vehicle including: Uber X, Uber Comfort, Uber XL, UberBlack and Uber BlackSUV. Each of these different levels of service have different vehicle requirements and drivers earn more by driving for the higher service levels. The plaintiff added that “a driver will earn more money for a trip if it takes place through UberBlack than by driving an identical trip for UberXL.” Uber BlackSUV is the “highest available service level,” which Uber claims to be a “luxury,” “high-end vehicle service.” Drivers at this level can earn the most for each ride given.

The plaintiff stated that Uber “intends for drivers to rely on its representations about eligible vehicles” for the different levels of service. However, the plaintiff alleged that Uber “does not adhere to these representations, and instead unilaterally changes the requirements.” For example, in September 2019, “Uber changed its requirements for vehicle eligibility for Uber BlackSUV, removing the Acura MDX, Audi Q7, Chevrolet LTZ, Chevrolet Tahoe, Ford Expedition (non-Platinum series), Infinity QX60, Mercedes GL Class, Nissan Armada, and Toyota Sequoia from eligibility.” Uber allegedly “cut off all drivers using these vehicles from the ability to offer rides at the Uber BlackSUV level, restricting them to lower (and lower-paying) levels of service,” in addition to stopping new registrations for these vehicles for Uber BlackSUV. 

In March 2017, the plaintiff communicated with Uber to receive a list of eligible Uber BlackSUV vehicles and in December 2018, the plaintiff purchased a black 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe with a leather interior so he could offer rides in the Uber BlackSUV service level. Before purchasing the vehicle he confirmed that the vehicle was eligible to use for Uber BlackSUV. The plaintiff asserted that he “paid $71,373.96 for the Tahoe, and intended to drive for Uber BlackSUV for as long as the 2017 model year was accepted, which he understood from Uber’s representations was seven years, until 2024.” After purchasing the vehicle, he began to drive for Uber BlackSUV. 

In August 2019, he received an email notifying him that the Tahoe would not be eligible for Uber BlackSUV level service in September. Instead, he would drive for UberBlack service level. The plaintiff claimed that “[a]lthough he continues to complete approximately the same number and types of trips, without the higher rate available for Uber BlackSUV trips, Plaintiff’s earnings from Uber are reduced by more than $200 per month.” As a result, he alleged that he has lost revenue from driving at a lower level of Uber’s service.

The counts against Uber for the aforementioned conduct include breach of contract, promissory estoppel, and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The plaintiff has sought for the court to certify the class and for the plaintiff and his counsel to represent the class; an award for damages; pre- and post-judgment interest; and other relief as determined by the court. The suit also has an arbitration certification.

The plaintiff is represented by Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C.