Uber, Lyft Drivers Are Getting Kicked Off Their Driver Apps Spontaneously

A study found that the issue impacts drivers of color more than others.

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By Gabrielle Bienasz

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Uber in Florida.

Deactivation is an extremely common experience for Uber and Lyft drivers, according to a new report.

When drivers are "deactivated," as the parlance goes, they are suspended, often just for a period of time, from using the app to pick up rides. On its site, Uber says the most common reason drivers are unable to access their accounts is because of background check issues. It also claims the review process is "human-led."

A survey released last week from the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), a civil rights advocacy organization, and the Rideshare Drivers United (RDU) found that 67% of the California-based drivers surveyed have been deactivated from the app before in some fashion. It also found drivers of color were more likely to report that experience.

"For many app-based drivers, driving on platforms like Uber and Lyft is their primary source of income," a press release on the study said. "Their ability to earn a living is precariously dependent on secret algorithms and unchecked customer complaints and ratings."

Per the results, 69% of drivers of color polled said they had been deactivated one way or another, while 57% of white drivers said they had experienced the event. Drivers of color made up the overwhelming majority of the surveyed group.

Two in three of the drivers surveyed reported experiencing bias or discrimination, the report added.

Two drivers Entrepreneur spoke to agreed with parts of the report's findings.

A part-time Uber driver nicknamed "Bawa" in Edmonton in the province of Alberta, Canada, who asked if his real name could be withheld for his privacy (but whose driver profile Entrepreneur has viewed), said he's never experienced discrimination himself but knows plenty of drivers who have.

"Most of the Uber drivers are from the immigrant community, and they are mostly first-generation immigrants," he said.

Bawa said he immigrated to Canada in 2008 and remembered he was deactivated once a few years after driving someone in very cold weather and struggling with the ice. He was able to get back on after five days, and the company gave him $150 for lost wages.

Levi Spires, 48, an Uber driver in Syracuse, New York told Entrepreneur that he's never been deactivated himself, but it's an ever-looming fear.

"There are horror stories of 5-star drivers getting shut down because of one false complaint," he said.

Sites like Reddit have threads of drivers complaining about being deactivated or discussing being at risk of being deactivated, as Spires noted.

Lyft said in a statement to NBC News that the report is "flawed to its core with a predetermined conclusion not grounded in facts." The company does, however, "strongly condemn discrimination of any kind and are committed to preventing it on our platform."

The survey covered 810 current or former Uber and Lyft drivers who had worked for the apps in California in the past four years, according to the report. It was administered online from April to July 2022 and also interviewed 15 drivers individually in the fall of 2022. Organizations like the Chinese Progressive Association in San Francisco helped distribute the surveys.

It was offered in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic.

Gabrielle Bienasz

Entrepreneur Staff

Gabrielle Bienasz is a staff writer at Entrepreneur. She previously worked at Insider and Inc. Magazine. 

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