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Uber and Lyft sitting in a tree, 'c-a-n-c-e-l-l-i-n-g each other's rides'

You talkin' to me? Dirty tricks claims spark ugly war of words

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Uber has blasted rival taxi app firm Lyft over claims that Uber staff had deliberately ordered Lyft rides and then cancelled them.

Lyft told CNN that it had logged 5,560 requests for rides from staff of Uber since October 3, 2013, and that there were numerous cases of people ordering short Lyft rides and spending the time trying to recruit the driver to switch to Uber, although there's no suggestion these were pitches ordered by head office.

"It's unfortunate for affected community members that they have used these tactics, as it wastes a driver's time and impacts the next passenger waiting for that driver," said Lyft spokeswoman Erin Simpson. "We remain focused on growing the business faster than any competitor through better customer experience and innovation."

According to figures supplied by Lyft, one person, identified by seven of their drivers as an Uber recruiter, booked and cancelled 300 rides in a fifteen-day period, and the person's phone number was tied to 21 user accounts which, in total, accounts for 1,524 canceled rides with Lyft.

An Uber employee is also accused of making and then breaking 102 ride orders, a trick used by another person Lyft claims is an Uber recruiter who set up 14 different accounts that made 680 cancellations.

All of these figures are all Lyft's say-so, and it hasn't revealed verifiable data. But in this game of he-said-she-said, Uber has come out swinging with some stats of its own.

"Lyft’s claims against Uber are baseless and simply untrue," an Uber spokesperson told The Register in a statement.

"Furthermore Lyft’s own drivers and employees ... have canceled 12,900 trips on Uber. But instead of providing the long list of questionable tactics that Lyft has used over the years, we are focusing on building and maintaining the best platform for both consumers and drivers."

The firm claims "a number of Lyft investors" have tried to put pressure on Uber to buy out Lyft. One senior investor threatened to “go nuclear” on Uber if it didn't, and the app firm says Lyft's data is presumably part of that battle plan.

Lyft told The Register in a statement that Uber is "deceiving the public" with its claims; it also branded the allegations of ride cancellations false and an attempt to deflect attention.

"Lyft has more than 100 investors, all of whom are extremely excited that Lyft is approaching IPO-level revenue," a spokesperson said. "Our 'nuclear' strategy is continuing to take market share with 30 per cent month-over-month growth, while building the strongest community of drivers and passengers."

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the figures, it's clear that the battle for supremacy between the two companies is getting very ugly. Both firms have slashed the commissions they take from drivers in an effort to win over a critical mass of drivers, leaving them burning through venture capital cash at a rate of knots and gambling on who has the deepest pockets.

The best result for investors would be if one firm either outpaces or purchases the other to create a dominant force that can set prices. That may not be best for fares, but allowing market competition is not an attractive strategy in this IPO-driven business landscape. ®

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