Uber gave burner iPhones and credit cards to contracted “brand ambassadors” as part of a campaign to sabotage Lyft’s launch in New York, The Verge reported on Tuesday (Aug. 26).
A war of words among ridesharing startups has been going on for weeks, with each company claiming that competitors have been systematically requesting and canceling rides. But according to the Verge story, Uber has also hired teams of independent contractors to create dummy accounts, request rides from Lyft and other competitors and recruit their drivers, while taking multiple precautions to avoid detection.
As part of the campaign, which specifically targets Lyft and has been running since Lyft’s mid-July launch in New York, contractors can earn a $750 commission for successfully recruiting a single new driver to Uber, according to the Verge story, which was based on internal Uber documents and interviews with current and former contractors.
According to one Uber document, Uber is also replicating the program, which it calls Operation SLOG, in Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle, Miami, Washington, D.C., and other cities.
Uber didn’t respond to a request for comment for the Verge story. But in a company blog post the same day, Uber said the Operation SLOG was merely a marketing project aimed at prospective drivers, and denied doing anything inappropriate, including intentionally canceling rides.