Uber downplays cash concerns


Uber has sought to allay fears that its recent decision to start letting drivers accept cash will undermine the very things that have made the service so appealing to so many South African consumers, and that the move won’t increase the risks for riders or for the more than 4,000 drivers using the platform in SA. The news that Uber would start accepting cash follows an announcement in April that the service was cutting its fees in South Africa in an effort to increase uptake.

“The safety features and checks and balances behind the service remain the same,” says Alon Lits, GM for Uber Sub-Saharan Africa. He also wants to remind users that, if they’ve been using a card as their method of payment they can keep doing so and won’t see any change in the way they use the service.

“Over 65% of payments in the broader South African economy are still cash-based,” says Lits, adding that a number of Uber drivers have been requesting the option to accept cash for their services. “This decision, like every decision we take at the company, is backed by data,” Lits adds.

New users that sign up to use Uber, don’t want to share their card details with the service and want to pay cash will follow the same sign up process as card users where their identity is verified via their mobile phone number. Lits explains that, thanks to RICA, this serves as a sufficiently sound vetting mechanism and ensures Uber can contact cash-only riders in the case of any problems.

Uber rebrandBut what about tips? One of the perks of Uber’s cashlessness to date has been the lack of pressure on riders to tip, or to carry funds with which to do so. “With Uber there’s no need to tip, however you choose to  pay,” Lits says. “As there’s always been, there’s the option to tip should you wish to, but you’re under no obligation to do so.”

And what if a driver doesn’t have change? “We can add credit to a rider’s account,” Lits says “So, if a driver was short R10, we can add credit to the rider’s account.” Similarly, if a rider refuses to pay a driver, Uber will pay the driver and follow up with the rider for the payment. Of course, if a driver repeatedly reports that riders aren’t paying, Uber will take a closer look.

“Drivers have not tried to game the system in other markets where we’ve introduced cash payments,” Lits says. Therein lies the power of data, right? It’s tricky to game a system that’s tracking your every move.

Regarding the recent price cuts, Lits says Uber will decide on 6 June whether the price cuts are going to stay or be rolled back. Lits says there’s one question Uber will ask come the June deadline: “Are drivers’ earnings higher than they were before the price cuts?” If drivers are making more, the price cuts will stay.


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