Uber Technologies Inc. is starting a rewards plan for drivers after facing protests and complaints about how it treats them.
The program is called Momentum, the mobile car-booking company said today. It includes a health-care recommendation tool, discounts of as much as 15 percent at auto-maintenance retailers including Jiffy Lube International Inc., and discounts on wireless plans through AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc.
“We’re just getting started and will add more” features to Momentum, Uber Senior Vice President David Plouffe said in an interview.
The introduction of the program follows protests by Uber drivers against the service. In September, Uber drivers in New York organized an event to oppose the company’s rising commissions and lower fares. Labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan has also sued Uber in Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts twice — once in 2012 and again this year — for issues including allegedly withholding gratuities from drivers.
Plouffe said the rewards program wasn’t triggered by Uber driver protests and instead is a way for the San Francisco-based company to show drivers that it considers them key partners.
Uber, which was valued at $17 billion in June and is in early talks to raise about $1 billion at a higher valuation, has been expanding quickly. Founded in 2009, the service is now in about 220 cities worldwide. The company has roiled established transportation industries such as taxis, with cab drivers worldwide protesting against Uber. Toronto yesterday asked a court to order Uber to shut down, saying the service has been operating there since 2012 without a proper license.
Uber has also been working to tamp down another controversy this week. Emil Michael, Uber’s senior vice president of business, recently spoke at a New York dinner where he suggested the company was willing to snoop into journalists’ personal lives and his comments were published this week by BuzzFeed.
Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick yesterday worked to distance Uber from Michael’s remarks.
“Emil’s comments at the recent dinner party were terrible and do not represent the company,” Kalanick wrote in a tweet.
Plouffe said he stood by Kalanick’s comments and declined to elaborate.
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