News & Analysis

Has UBER really been evicted from its Australian premises?

- November 13, 2014 4 MIN READ

Last month, I wrote a piece on the situation between transport platform UBER and the movement calling itself ‘Arresting Uber‘.

The leader of the ‘Arresting Uber’ movement is Russell Howarth, who at the time my previous article was published claimed he was a registered Uber driver.

That’s what makes this situation so intense. This isn’t a case of an external body protesting against innovation – it’s the company’s own early adopters rising up against a new product recently introduced in UberX.

Howarth, the mouth piece for this ‘movement’ described himself at the time as an ‘industry advocate’ who has been standing up for the taxi and hire car industry for the past 10 years. Howarth said he was an ex London riot-policing squad officer, who also has experience in counter terrorism as well as working with MI6. It seems that as his movement has grown that he now thinks himself as a little more than the run-of-the-mill advocate. He has gone as far as labelling himself a ‘Corporate War Consultant’ on his Linkedin page.

Source: Linkedin

Source: Linkedin

Over recent weeks, Howarth via the twitter moniker @ArrestingUberhas been making some very bold, public claims about Uber. His penchant to shit stir and link articles around rape and assault back to UBER, in my opinion, is a tactic that he has used more than once, is pretty much living within the realms of propaganda. Whilst yes, UBER drivers have been accused of various crimes, many of these stories being linked to, have no association with the Australian arm of and in some cases the company Uber, at all.

The entire point of the movement from my understanding based on all my interactions with Howarth, is that professional drivers are specifically against what is perceived by many, including the Roads and Maritime Services, the illegal UBER X service. Trying to position UBER X drivers as rapists is actually counterintuitive to that mission, based solely on the fact that I can find just as many stories on professional drivers in the taxi and hire car industry that have committed the same crimes, and also find just as many examples where the companies employing those people were not as helpful to the victims as they perhaps should have been.

That aside, some very bold specific claims have been made by Howarth via twitter, first there was this:


Source | twitter.com

Firstly, the ‘horse’ in this equation would technically have to be UBER founder Travis Kalanick or Australian General Manager of UBER, David Rohrsheim. I know neither of these guys have engaged directly with Howarth on this matter. The source this statement has come from is unknown, and therefore I feel needs to be publicly labelled as being unsubstantiated, at least for the moment.

The other major claim that has been made by Howarth in the last 48 hours is that UBER Australia has been evicted from its Sydney premises. This was also communicated via a tweet.

uber eviction

Source | twitter.com

Last night, I asked Howarth to provide me proof on this claim and I was shown some supporting off-record documentation and photographs, which again does not provide concrete proof that an eviction of UBER from its current premises is imminent. A lot of this claim is based off hearsay and a sign on the door that has been publicly posted stating that UBER offices will be closed until the 15th of November.

I think that in a lot of circumstances these claims that are being made, are being used as a strategy for rallying more people to the ‘Arresting Uber’ cause. The problem is, the cause is steering off course and what started out as a call for the government to take action against UBER X services, has become a slanderous shit slinging match. Sometimes being the loudest voice on the internet is not necessarily the most clever way to get what you want.

Having said that, I cannot deny that the ‘Arresting Uber’ movement has actually clocked up a few wins against UBER since I last wrote about them. To date, five citizens arrests have been made, and police has actually upheld these arrests.

The latest three arrests have not yet resulted in charges being laid though, however Howarth claims that they will be, and he will be able to officially provide documentation of that soon. Perhaps the most public win that ‘Arresting Uber’ is taking at least a small portion of credit for, is Virgin Australia’s decision to cease a strategic partnership it had put in place with UBER that included all of the company’s services.

Virgin, released a statement on its website explaining the early withdrawal:

Screenshot |Virgin Australia

Screenshot |Virgin Australia

The promotion of and the subsequent cancellation of the partnership all within a 48-hour period, was met with mixed reactions via social media, obviously that consisted of camp pro-UBER and camp anti-UBER.

What it demonstrated though was that Howarth’s ‘rally’ style approach can be used to get specific results.

Again, this whole situation comes back directly to and falls on the shoulders of our State Governments, who are responsible for the legislation in the area concerning public transport. I have publicly stated before that the law is not crystal clear; the transport minister of NSW herself has changed her mind on ‘ride sharing’ from her original stance at the beginning of the year and that has created massive confusion and set the precedent for companies like UBER to begin pushing the boundaries.

Until actual leadership is shown by way of defining ‘ride sharing’ and updating outdated legislation to include vast technological advances in the industry, we are destined to keep riding this stupid carousel of confusion.The team closed the office today for a hard earned work-cation away from Sydney.The team closed the office today for a hard earned work-cation away from Sydney.The team closed the office today for a hard earned work-cation away from Sydney.The team closed the office today for a hard earned work-cation away from Sydney.The team closed the office today for a hard earned work-cation away from Sydney.


UPDATE: Uber Australia CEO contacted Startup Daily this evening via email and said that the Uber offices were currently closed and vacant because the team were on a work-cation. The following instagram image was also attached to the email.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 8.35.18 pm