Uber Announces Reduced Rewards, Hidden Pricing to Comply with California Law

You’ve probably read about California’s AB-5 law, which “helps” gig workers by limiting their employment flexibility and options. It’s called the “Opportunity to Work” act, but try telling that to countless freelance writers — like the lefties at Vox, who got what they voted for good and hard — suddenly without paychecks.

There’s a public side to this, too, as users of the popular Uber ride-sharing app were just notified of new changes the company has made in order to comply with AB-5.

One of Uber’s best features is before you commit to a ride, you’re shown the full price up front, right in the app. But that’s no longer true in California. From now on, according to a press release that just landed in my inbox, riders “will now see a price range rather than a set price before you request any non-Pool ride, which is our best estimate of what the trip will cost you.” There goes one of Uber’s best competitive advantages against traditional medallion taxis, where you never know exactly what you’ll pay to get somewhere until you’re already there. It’s a safe bet that means fewer fares for Uber drivers.

The company has also been forced to eliminate “price protection on a route and flexible cancellations,” which again removes one of Uber’s competitive advantages.

Uber claims to be “actively working on new benefits for California riders,” but flexibility (for riders and drivers) to known-in-advance prices were already the company’s best benefits. They’re also promising to hook you up more often with drivers you designate as your favorites, and promise not to match you with drivers you’ve given one-star reviews. But those seem like a big Meh compared to what California riders have lost.

So let’s call AB-5 what it really is: The Medallion Taxi Protection and Screw Everybody Else Act.

That doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but it’s surely more honest.