Having disrupted the car-for-hire market—at least in some major cities—Uber and Lyft are progressing to the next logical stage: Doing their best to disrupt each other.
Lyft has accused Uber of requesting and canceling more than 5,000 rides in the past year, costing its drivers precious time and money. In addition to denying the accusation (“Lyft’s claims against Uber are baseless and simply untrue”), Uber charges Lyft with engaging in the same underhanded behavior: “Lyft’s own drivers and employees, including one of Lyft’s founders, have canceled 12,900 trips on Uber.”
If that wasn’t enough, Uber devoted the rest of its public statement on the matter to accusing Lyft of engaging in driver sabotage, in order to force an acquisition: “A number of Lyft investors have recently been pushing Uber to acquire Lyft. One of their largest shareholders recently warned that Lyft would ‘go nuclear’ if we do not acquire them.” Lyft’s recent actions, it concluded, “are part of that strategy.”
Lyft responded by calling Uber’s claims “false” and “an attempt to deflect from their illegal cancel campaign.”
However amusing the sight of two much-lauded startups yelling at each other like a pair of aggravated teenagers, there’s a very dark thread running through this story: Although companies compete hard against one another, they rarely attempt to sabotage the competition in such an overt, systemic way. Even if the possibility of lawsuits doesn’t keep companies playing (relatively) nice in the proverbial sandbox, there’s also the realization that, no matter how effective any attempt at undermining, what ultimately decides marketplace victory is the quality of products and services.
Whatever their differences with each other, Lyft and Uber continue to face considerable challenges from traditional taxi services that feel threatened by the emergence of the “sharing economy.” Municipal governments have also expressed reservations about Lyft and Uber, questioning whether such services should be subject to firmer regulation. In other words, the two companies can fight each other all they want, but they face much bigger problems in the months and years ahead.
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