Thanks to a new Uber policy, your passenger rating may now be worth more than just a five-star boost to your ego. On May 29, the rideshare service announced that passengers in the United States and Canada can now be banned from using the app if they don't meet a set of community guidelines, designed to encourage and enforce "safety and respect for all." Uber passengers with low ratings, i.e. those who consistently don't meet those guidelines, will be flagged and sent tips for improving their behavior. A lack of rating improvement over time can lead to an account deactivation.
According to Uber, all users must approve the updated set of community guidelines, which state that passengers agree to "treat everyone with respect, help keep everyone safe," and "follow the law," before their next ride. People who leave trash in the cars, encourage their drivers to speed, threaten their drivers' safety, or do any number of other actions will be deemed to be breaking these guidelines, and thus might see their ratings fall.
Uber's new policy comes after the recent implementation of a minimum user rating system in Australia and New Zealand, in which passengers with ratings under four stars who fail to improve their behavior after "multiple notifications" face a possible account deactivation. In the U.S. and Canada, the minimum rider rating standard before deactivation will vary by city.
Ridesharing can be dangerous for both passengers and drivers, each vulnerable while alone in an enclosed vehicle, but in the past, companies have typically focused far more on passengers' experiences with drivers than the opposite. Users are able to comment on drivers' behaviors — ranging from minor issues like too-loud music and constant talking to more serious concerns like speeding and harassment — through both ratings and detailed reviews, potentially affect drivers' futures at the companies.
Yet despite plenty of users demonstrating less-than-appropriate behavior during rides, drivers have, until now, been unable to give unruly or dangerous passengers equally consequential feedback. Uber has a diversity and inclusion policy that bans discriminatory behavior and racism towards drivers, riders and employees, and in their ratings of passengers, drivers can anonymously note when passengers are disrespectful or make them feel unsafe. These forms of feedback, however, have rarely led to passengers actually being thrown off the app.
Yet in some cases, drivers — particularly women, who risk harassment and assault while driving more than their male peers — have absolutely needed to have that power. There've been numerous instances of assaults on rideshare drivers over the years; just recently, on May 23, a (now-banned) passenger attacked a Lyft driver in New York City, lashing out and hitting the driver when he refused to speed and weave between traffic. In 2017, a female Uber driver was violently sexually assaulted by two male passengers, and in 2016, a former Taco Bell executive was sentenced to 60 days in jail after violently assaulting his Uber driver.
"Holding riders accountable for their behavior on the Uber platform is an important safety measure to protect drivers as well as fellow riders who may book shared rides," Moira Muntz, spokesperson for the Independent Drivers Guild, a Machinists Union affiliate which represents 70,000 app-based drivers in NYC, tells Mic via email. "While most riders are respectful, banning riders who threaten driver safety, spew racist rants, and disrespect or damage our vehicles is the right thing to do. For too long there has been one-sided accountability and this is a positive step toward correcting that."