Uber reviews Asia business over bribery allegations in U.S.: Bloomberg

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL], which is the subject of a federal probe into whether it broke bribery laws, has started a review of its Asia operations and notified U.S. officials about payments made by staff in Indonesia, Bloomberg reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

A source familiar with the matter told Reuters that the Bloomberg report was accurate.

Uber said in August it was cooperating with a preliminary investigation led by the U.S. Department of Justice into whether company managers violated U.S. laws against bribery of foreign officials, specifically the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Uber hired law firm O‘Melveny & Myers LLP to investigate how it obtained the medical records of an Indian woman who was raped by an Uber driver in 2014, Reuters reported in June.

O’Melveny & Myers is now examining records of foreign payments and interviewing employees, raising questions about why some potentially problematic business dealings were not disclosed sooner, Bloomberg said on Tuesday. bloom.bg/2xdk6PT

Attorneys are focused on suspicious activity in at least five Asian countries: China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea, Bloomberg said, adding that Uber’s law firm is reviewing financial arrangements tied to the Malaysian government that may have influenced lawmakers there.

Uber and the DoJ could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Peter Henderson in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler

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Tech

Uber faces big jump in fees if London license is renewed

LONDON (Reuters) – Uber will face a big jump in the fee it pays to operate in London to 2.9 million pounds if the ride hailing company is granted a new license by the city’s transport authority.

Transport for London said on Monday companies with more than 10,000 vehicles would pay 2.9 million pounds ($ 4 million) for a license under a new multi-tiered system coming into force this week.

In 2012, Uber paid less than 3,000 pounds for a five-year license to operate in London, which was extended in May by four months partly because TfL needed to finalize its new fees system.

Uber, which allows users to book journeys on their smartphones, has roughly 40,000 drivers in London. A decision on Uber’s license is due by the end of the month.

TfL’s General Manager of Taxi & Private Hire Helen Chapman said: “There has been a huge growth in the industry in recent years and it is only fair that the license fee reflects the costs of regulation and enforcement.”

“The changes to fees will help us fund additional compliance officers who do a crucial job cracking down on illegal and dangerous activity,” she said.

Uber has previously said it backed the principle of large firms paying more. The company declined to comment on Monday on the license fees.

The number of private hire drivers in London has almost doubled to more than 116,000 from 65,000 in 2013/14, prompting TfL’s decision to introduce higher fees for the bigger operators.

Uber has faced protests from drivers of London’s traditional black cabs and criticism over working conditions.

Several British lawmakers wrote a letter last week calling for Uber’s license not to be renewed, accusing it of not being a “fit and proper operator” and criticizing its record on safety and working rights.

The GMB union handed in a petition with 100,000 signatures on Monday to TfL, calling on Uber to improve workers’ rights or “get out of London” ahead of the license decision.

An Uber spokesman said the company was taking steps to improve security for its drivers and that they are paid more than the minimum wage, enjoying the flexibility offered by the app.

Reporting by Costas Pitas. Editing by Jane Merriman

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Uber drivers will verify their identities through selfies

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From now on, Uber drivers will start their shifts with selfies. 

The ride-hailing company is expanding its Real-Time ID Check feature across the US, it announced in a blog post Friday. Drivers submit a selfie through the app to ensure the person driving the car matches Uber’s account on file. 

The feature doesn’t connect to a background check or do anything else to ensure the underlying safety of Uber drivers. Instead, it just checks that the person in the car is the same one Uber has on file. 

Drivers will be asked periodically to submit selfies before accepting rides, Uber said. The company uses Microsoft’s Cognitive Services API to compare the photo to one it has. If the photos don’t match, a driver’s account will be temporarily blocked.  Read more…

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Uber pilots program in California and Michigan that advances drivers up to $1,000

An Uber car in San Francisco.

Uber has launched a new driver-focused program that provides cash advances when needed. The on-demand private car service has teamed with financial service provider Clearbanc on what’s being called Advance Pay. With it, drivers can opt to receive up to $ 1,000 with no interest, but only if they’re in California and Michigan.

In a Medium post, regional general manager Rachel Holt cited a study by the U.S. Federal Reserve that found 47 percent of people in the country “struggle to handle an unexpected bill costing $ 400, with a third saying that they would be forced to borrow to pay.” As Uber continues to press that it’s service offers great benefits to those looking for work or in need of extra income, Advance Pay looks to be a solution to the problem.

Not every driver will be eligible and the company declined to state what the specific qualifications are. However, those that participate in this program can receive up to $ 1,000 in cash, with some of the funds up front and the rest after they’ve taken their first trip as a driver.

The money is provided through Clearbanc and drivers have up to 15 days to repay the advance either directly to the provider or through their Uber weekly earnings. During the pilot program, all automatic payments will be capped so drivers won’t have more than half of their earnings deducted automatically. There’s no restrictions on how often someone has to be a driver.

This isn’t the first tie-up between Uber and Clearbanc, a graduate of Y Combinator’s Fellowship program. Drivers already can link their account to Clearbanc and get their earnings transferred into a Visa debit card. With that, Clearbanc charges $ 2 for each day that it deposits funds into a driver’s account.

In March, Uber launched its Instant Pay option for those drivers in San Francisco to do pretty much the same thing as what Clearbanc offered previously. However, in this instance, Uber partnered with GoBank and there aren’t any minimum deposits or transaction fees incurred. Holt revealed that this pilot program “has been popular so far” and plans to make it more widely available soon.

As the ridesharing war between Uber and Lyft continues to heat up, both companies are pulling out all the stops to entice drivers to their sides, and it largely has to do with the benefits. Lyft has recently introduced its version of instant pay powered by Stripe, along with partnerships with Hertz and Shell to keep its drivers happy while also removing the barriers that would prevent someone from being its partner.

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