Ride sharing startup Uber has been caught using "brand ambassadors" to steal drivers away from its biggest competitor Lyft.
Uber provide teams of independent contractors with credit cards and "burner" phones (essentially PAYG phones that can be bought without signing a contract) who then order rides from Lyft and charm the drivers over to Uber.
The rival companies have been aggressively targeting each other for some time, but it came to a head last month when Lyft accused Uber employees of cancelling over 5,000 Lyft rides. Uber struck back in a statement calling the claims "baseless and simply untrue" and also accused Lyft "drivers and employees, including one of Lyft's founders" of cancelling "12,900" Uber trips.
However, in an interview with the Verge, an Uber contractor said "What's simply untrue is that not only does Uber know about this, they're actively encouraging these actions day-to-day and, in doing so, are flat-out lying both to their customers, the media, and their investors."
Allegedly Uber brand ambassadors can earn up to $750 (£450) for recruiting a new driver to Uber. The project is called Operation SLOG (Supplying Long-term Operations Growth) and internal documents lay out Uber's step-by-step strategy for recruiting Lyft drivers. The Uber higher-ups have even gone so far as to label the emails #shavethestache in reference to the pink moustaches attached to Lyft vehicles.
The ride-share space is a heavily contested battleground for Lyft and Uber, with both companies offering financial incentives and perks. Lyft sets up free lunches for potential new drivers and offers them $500 (£300) to drive 10 Lyft rides, Uber offers the $500 and a guarantee that you'll earn $45 (£27) per hour for a month.
In response to the Verge article Uber released a blog post sanitising their tactics. Still, with statements like "We can't successfully recruit drivers without talking to them – and that means taking a ride," and the phrase "unmatched economic opportunity," you can't help but smell the propaganda.