City of Seattle to contact Uber about ‘illegal’ marketing tactics

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Uber is gluing promotional posters on Seattle utility boxes to drum up support for its company. This one is at E Madison St. and 17th Ave E in Capitol Hill.

Uber is trying to convince Seattle’s city leaders that its app-based UberX transportation service should be allowed to operate freely, but the company’s most recent marketing tactics may not exactly help that cause.

We spotted several Uber promotional posters stuck to city utility boxes and dumpsters near downtown Seattle Thursday. Based on city regulations, city officials told us that the posters are actually “illegal” because they are glued to structures that are either city-owned or under permit.

Uber used glue to stick their posters on utility boxes, which is illegal according to Seattle's postering regulations.

Uber used glue to stick their posters on utility boxes, which is illegal according to Seattle’s postering regulations.

On top of that, the posters also broke a few more rules: they were attached using glue, they exceed the maximum size allowed, and finally, they do not include a posting date.

“We will contact Uber to address the issue,” a city spokesman told us.

We’ve reached out to Uber for comment on the posters, but have not heard back.

Uber has revved up its marketing engine these past few days in Seattle as the city implements regulations on the company. On Thursday evening, the City Council voted 5-4 to cap the number of Lyft, UberX or Sidecar drivers active at any given time on each system to 150. That means UberX would be allowed 150 drivers at one time during the day or night — same goes for Sidecar and Lyft. The legislation, which still needs official approval next month, left representatives from both Uber and the taxi industry disappointed.

Uber, which has collected more than 10,000 signatures for a petition to stop the City Council from implementing caps, has also been robo-calling people with an automated message that allows people to leave voice messages with councilmembers.

“We need your help,” the recorded message said. “The Seattle City Council … is imposing devastating caps on the number of drivers we can partner with.”

On top of all that, Uber is also driving around giant billboards with the same messaging:

photo

These marketing stunts are all in addition to celebrity support Uber has received over the past week from people like rapper Macklemore, Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate and musician Allen Stone.

See all of our coverage on the ride-sharing issue here.

  • MichaelTompson

    The fact that this CORPORATION uses pad for social media PR campaings, for-hire online posters, endless misleading ads to try and justify their LAW-BREAKING BUSINESS is outrageous. I applaud all regulators and citizens who see through this manipulation and deception and oopose this corporate grab of local transportation industry by offshore private corporate interests.

    • Cameron Newland

      Your comment here is perhaps the best proof that your argument has no legitimacy, and I’m not just talking about your spelling errors. #crackpot

      • MichaelTompson

        Personal attacks are the hallmark of Uber-drones. Keep worshiping oligarchy. I’m sure you shop at Walmart too.

        • Cameron Newland

          I don’t worship oligarchy, but market capitalism is serving me just fine at the moment, with multiple car services competing to serve my transportation needs at the click of a (phone app) button. The Communists sitting on the city council seem to be anti-consumer, anti-business, and anti-convenience, and that is pathetic and indefensible. I think they’ll find that this issue will cause many of them to lose their seats next election cycle.

          • frederigoxcz305

            my Aunty Sienna recently got a stunning red Nissan Maxima by
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          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Randist nut cases do worship oligarchy.

          • Cameron Newland

            Worshipping convenience is hardly worshipping oligarchy! Get with the program! #progress ;-)

  • guest

    Uber ignoring the law and doing whatever they want? Shocking! No one would have ever expected that!

  • TraditionallyGood

    Funny, I remember Fremont being littered with Sawant posters last year.

    • Guest

      Those are legal.

      • boop

        Are they? I don’t think so.

  • Not Uber

    I can’t remember the last time I witnessed a corporate culture that celebrates corruption quite like Uber. “Uber’s Dirty Trick Campaign Against NYC Competition Came From the Top,”
    http://valleywag.gawker.com/ubers-dirty-trick-campaign-against-nyc-competition-cam-1508280668

    I love the idea of Uber, but this company is pathological.

  • Guest

    Why is the word illegal in quotes? That implies it might not be illegal, that it might just be some people saying it’s illegal. If there is a question about whether its illegal or not, you should say its alleged, and you should explain why. That’s proper journalism.

    GeekWire deserves credit for bringing this issue to our attention. Thank you for that. But, by putting quotes around “illegal” and by saying yesterday they were “bending” laws they were clearly breaking, you look like you’re trying to minimize the concern. Similarly, by calling these law-breaking taxi companies “ride-sharing” when they are clearly not, you look like you are in their pocket.

    I love GeekWire, but you’re letting yourself get swayed by a marketing campaign. You can and should do better.

  • Chris

    What PR agency is being used to oppose the ride share initiative? It looks like these forums are getting swamped by people only tracking that issue. Yes, it’s illegal, so is speeding. Let’s not call it an issue unless Uber doesn’t respond to the city request for changing postings or taking them down. Until then, if I didn’t know better, most of these comments sound like hired trolls.

  • NewAgeMeMe

    Everyone calm down, this is called ad-sharing…it’s part of the new green sharing industry that Uber and others are promoting. Plus, it’s innovative because it gives residents more choices on how to receive information. Since it is ad-sharing and ‘innovative’, legality and other people don’t really matter.

    • yourestalkingme

      THE BEST!

    • Cameron Newland

      Though you’re clearly speaking in jest, I think your words, if taken literally, make a good point. We should remember that at one time, interracial marriage was illegal, too. Sometimes, breaking the law is the morally defensible thing to do when the laws are wrongheaded. If convenient car services are illegal, perhaps the law just needs to be changed/abolished, and in the meantime, while the outdated laws are still in place, the best way to force the issue and advance the conversation toward updating the law is to break the law in question. With that in mind, these TNCs might be compared to lawbreakers from the past, like the people who operated the Underground Railroad in the Confederate States during the Civil War.

      • http://www.puzzazz.com/ Roy Leban

        Nice try, but no, not even close.

        • Cameron Newland

          So the people operating the illegal underground railroad were wrong to break confederate laws? Were American colonists who opposed to the Stamp Act wrong to congregate and riot in Boston Harbor? Sometimes, breaking the law is the right thing to do.

          • http://www.puzzazz.com/ Roy Leban

            Comparing human rights with business rights makes no sense. There is no fundamental right to drive a taxi or run a taxi company.

          • Cameron Newland

            That’s where I disagree with you. I think your position that someone doesn’t have a right to start a business and serve customers is disgraceful.

            Regulating the growth of transportation options that are in demand means longer waits and poorer service, and is anti-consumer and anti-business.

            If you have some moral standing to oppose TNCs like Uber, I’d sure like to hear it.

          • http://www.puzzazz.com/ Roy Leban

            I think making personal attacks when somebody disagrees with you is disgraceful. I have nothing against people or companies that want to start new companies and compete in the world, and I didn’t say I did.

            Suppose somebody wants to start a “debt sharing service” that will beat people up and serve customers who want people who owe them money beaten up until they pay. Oh, and they’ve built a smartphone app to allow you to arrange for it easily from the comfort of your own home or office. You can even watch on a map as your hired thug approaches your debtor. It seems like you would say they should have a right to have that business, and they shouldn’t have to follow any existing laws that say assault and conspiracy to commit assault are illegal. And neither should existing laws on collection agencies affect them! After all, they’re a “debt sharing service” or a DNC (Debt Network Company), not a collection agency — they built an app!

            The idea that the existing laws shouldn’t apply to these taxi companies is just ridiculous. I think what Minneapolis has done, by saying that they will ticket and impound any illegal taxis, is the right thing to do.

          • Cameron Newland

            Your argument fails many tests. For one, providing transportation is not physically violent like the hypothetical debt collection company you describe. It seems you’re unable to support positive change coming from the business community. You’re a pathetic stubborn conservative who wishes that innovation would get off his lawn. You’re just as deplorable as those conservatives who argued to continue the policy of racial segregation. Though you’ll undoubtedly continue to support the status quo, I’m happy in my knowledge that the future is brighter than the present, and I’ll live to see more positive innovation from the likes of Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar, and the voices of the naysayers will slowly acquiesce until they can be heard no longer, with their certain mortality bringing their unwarranted cries to a close. Good riddance, Luddite! ;-)

          • http://www.puzzazz.com/ Roy Leban

            This will be my last response. You don’t have a real argument, so you’re resorting to insulting me, and I think that will be pretty obvious to anyone reading this thread. I am so far from a “pathetic stubborn conservative” it isn’t even funny. I’ll bet I’m more liberal than you are. To call me a luddite is just comical. And you’re inventing things that I haven’t said and that I don’t believe. I love innovation, but I don’t see it here.

            This is about ethics. What I see is companies that are trying to skirt laws in many ways, from originally calling fares “donations” (yeah, right), to saying they’re exempt from laws about licensing, inspections, and insurance, to and even making illegal robocalls and putting up illegal posters. But you’re ok with them doing all those illegal things because they’re not “physically violent.”

            The worst thing is that the drivers are being screwed and don’t even know it. As noted elsewhere, when they take the real cost of their vehicles and they insurance they need (but many aren’t getting) into account, they’re not actually making much money, if anything. Uber is leaving one of their drivers in the lurch because they’re claiming (in violation of the law) that their insurance doesn’t apply to their accident. Wait until some drivers lose their cars or are forced into bankruptcy when they have accidents.

          • Cameron Newland

            I’m not insulting you, I’m simply calling a spade a spade. And I never implied that Uber drivers shouldn’t have proper insurance.

            Though it’s true that drivers incur real costs, it appears that TNC drivers ate doing just fine financially…if they weren’t, why would they continue driving? Uber, Lyft and Sidecar are offering real employment opportunities for people who want to drive for them, and there’s no good reason for preventing them from doing so.

            Your arguments against TNCs are indefensible.

          • Guest

            Cameron: Wow. You ARE insulting Roy and anyone who disagrees with you. Simply saying someone else has an indefensible argument says nothing.

            And you have the facts wrong. The drivers for these new taxi cos are not employees. When real costs are taken into account (licensing fees, inspections, valid commercial insurance, a proper driver’s license and training in some states, and the depreciated value of their car) the drivers are not making much. It only looks good when you ignore the law. Bank robbing looks pretty good on a cash flow basis too ;-)

          • Cameron Newland

            Way to hide behind a shield of anonymity, coward. ;-)

            You’re dead wrong. I haven’t insulted Roy. His own opinions have outed him as a Luddite, and I’ve been courageous enough to point it out. One man’s truth-teller is another man’s slanderer, it seems. I guess it depends on how you look at it!

            Also, bank robbery has nothing to do with this. Bank robbery hurts all of us, whereas TNCs like Uber hurt only taxi cab monopolies (which have no reason to exist in the first place, I might add!). Only bank robbers gain from a bank robbery, but in the case of TNCs, consumers, businesses, and drivers all gain something tangible, and it is for that reason that driving a car should be legal but robbing banks should not.

          • For Cameron Newland

            Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.

            — ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

          • Cameron Newland

            Cheeky! I like it. ;-)

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Insurance fraud is a form of robbery. UberX/Sidecar/Lyft have a business model based on “regulatory arbitrage” where they skirt regulations and commit insurance fraud in order to gain competitive advantage.

            http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2014/01/20/ride-sharing-insurance-lyft-uberx-sidecar/

            It is absurd for you to compare these sleazeballs to the underground railroad.

          • Cameron Newland

            It’s time to require TNC drivers to have appropriate insurance coverage, then. Simple as that.

            And though the underground railroad comparison might sound like a stretch, there are some clear similarities between the TNC operators and the participants in the underground railroad: specifically they were/are breaking the law, but they were/are earning a moral victory and their actions lead to the laws eventually being changed for the better.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Not a “stretch”, absurd. An affront really.

            A more apt comparison would be the bootleggers such as Al Capone who broke the Prohibition laws and whose actions lead to the laws being changed.

          • Cameron Newland

            Remember, you’re talking about polite private drivers, not murderous gangsters. Thanks! ;-)

            Reductio ad absurdum…

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            I didn’t say it was a perfect analogy just more apt than yours. Your “polite private drivers” are running around with invalid insurance not for some higher moral purpose but because it is less expensive to cut corners. And they won’t stop endangering the public until the city makes them knock it off.

            http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-rt-us-ridesharing-insurance-uber-20140226,0,7288445.story

          • Cameron Newland

            Well, both you and I agree that TNC drivers need to have the right kind of insurance, so there’s no need to reiterate it.

            And are TNC drivers really “endangering the public”, as you say? I don’t think so. They’re just trying to get us from point-A to point-B.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Sure, your polite drivers get into an accident. Then they won’t pay for their victim’s injuries because they were operating with invalid insurance and because they are “judgement-proof”.

            And Uber won’t pay up because there was no passenger in their faux cab( i.e. The Sofia Liu case in San Francisco).

            Isn’t running around with no insurance endangering the public?

          • Cameron Newland

            Wait, what? I just said that TNC drivers need to have the appropriate insurance. That means that if they got into an accident, injuries and such would be covered. As a result, there’s no need to keep bringing up insurance.

            In regards to the Sofia Liu case in SF, I think the appropriate thing is to have Uber drivers get beefier insurance. However, Uber shouldn’t be liable for paying out anything in that particular case. Uber wasn’t driving. A driver was!

            Yes, running around with no insurance is somewhat of a danger to the public, however, Uber drivers do have coverage (just maybe not the appropriate type of coverage, and this should be fixed ASAP).

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            No, UberX/Lyft/Sidecar drivers are running around with non-commercial coverage that does not have to pay up because running a taxi service is excluded by their policy. That is uninsured.

            The drivers do not tell their insurers about their taxi business. That is fraud. The drivers are filing collision claims without telling their insurance company about what they are doing. More fraud that is dumping the costs of their business on the private auto insurance consumer.

            UberX/Lyft/Sidecar encourage this fraud by telling the often naive drivers that it is ok. They check the drivers policies, see that it is non-commercial but then enter them in their dispatch system even though they know that the policies are invalid. They are liable for their gross negligence and a company policy that encourages fraud.

            Then when an accident occurs, Uber/Lyft/sSdecar fire their drivers and hang them out to dry.

          • Cameron Newland

            I guess I’m just curious who your audience is with your above comment about insurance. I’m on board with TNC drivers getting appropriate insurance, so obviously there’s no need to preach to me. I don’t know why you keep bringing it up when we’re in agreement. It seems pretty odd and suspect of you to do that.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Cameron, if you argue the points I make, I respond back. You don’t a free pass because you have conceded that TNC drivers should get appropriate insurance.

            Furthermore my position is that not only “should” they get insurance but that the city has to make them do it through regulation. In fact, the city should follow the example of Minneapolis and Austin and tell the TNC sleazeballs that they will start impounding cars and imposing fines if they continue to operate uninsured.

          • Cameron Newland

            Have a nice day, and enjoy shadow-boxing with ghosts!

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            You have a nice day too and enjoy putting sleazy businessmen on a pedestal.

          • Cameron Newland

            lol @ obvious Taxi Cab Industry Lobbyist above ^^

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Actually the insurance industry is not too happy with your sleazeball heroes either.

          • Cameron Newland

            One man’s sleazeball heroes are another man’s Henry Reardens. I guess it depends on whether you value human progress or not (clearly you’d rather complain about progress instead). ;-)

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Allowing uninsured taxis on the road is not progress – it is a step backwards.

            Even the Seattle Times Tech columnist sees through your hero’s entitled calls for special treatment because they are “innovative”:

            “The bottom line is that uberX, Lyft and Sidecar are throwing a hissy fit about having to play by the same rules as companies they’re competing with and hoping to displace.

            They’re overplaying their “innovation” hand.

            I also think their demands for special treatment — and their slick and aggressive lobbying tactics — could backfire and create resentment against other tech startups that aren’t trying to bend the rules.

            It’s like watching a rich kid show up at the ballfield with a $300 high-tech baseball bat, then demand an unlimited number of strikes before he’s called out.”

            http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2023026897_briercolumn03xml.html

          • Cameron Newland

            There you go talking about insurance again! You’re a broken record.

            The TNCs’ business model is what is innovative (and a show of progress). Dodging insurance costs is not a necessary part of their business plan, it’s just how they’ve decided to handle things so far, and it will likely change.

            By the way, the TNCs shouldn’t have to play by the all of the same rules that govern taxis. Why? Because they’re not technically taxis. I’d like to see TNCs completely displace taxis, and I’m confident that that will happen by 2025. There is a need for some limited regulation of TNCs, but only what is absolutely necessary (a regime like the one that governs taxis is going way overboard). And I’m not implying that TNC drivers shouldn’t have the appropriate (commercial) insurance coverage.

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            “Dodging insurance costs is not a necessary part of their business plan…”

            How do you know? Since they do it all over the country, it certainly looks that way

            “…it’s just how they’ve decided to handle things so far”

            And what you just decided to do was to pose an inane non-argument.

            “The TNCs’ business model is what is innovative (and a show of progress)”

            Another nothing statement. What a waste of bandwidth.

          • Cameron Newland

            Your inability to comprehend shows that this conversation is a few levels above your pay grade. ;-)

          • ClaimsAdjuster

            Sorry, UberTroll, mere assertion is not a rebuttal. Your claim that the faux cabs dodging insurance costs is not part of their business plan, although that is what they objectively do everywhere they operate is mere assertion. Your statement that their “business model”, as you selectively define it, “is what is innovative (and a show of progress)” just because you say so is more assertion.

            Your statement that TNC driver “should” get the proper insurance is nothing more than a worthless expression of sentiment. You know that the sleazeball TNCs and their corner cutting drivers won’t do that unless the law makes them.

            Just admit that you are a Randist nutcase and that you are ideologically against any regulation whatsoever.

      • boop

        So, if I destroy the advertising (i.e., remove it in the middle of the night when no one is watching), then I’m not really breaking the law.

        • Cameron Newland

          I’m not so sure I agree with you. Uber is wrong on the advertising-on-public-property issue.

  • boop

    Seattle is RIFE with
    illegal advertising! I do not say this to excuse Uber. Not in the least. I am
    just using this as an opportunity to draw attention to my own personal cause de
    célèbre: Illegal signs clutter sidewalks all over the entire city and the Seattle
    Department of Transportation does NOTHING to enforce the ordinance that is on
    the books. They claim they lack the funding but they seem to have plenty of funding for plenty of useless projects like replacing parking meters.

  • Georgie

    uhh…ubb ….uber is becoming annoying with this tactic.

  • Brad Chodos-Irvine

    When you have a Seahawk player endorsing a service, you know it is over. Cars are not so good for humans in any of the ways in which we use them. Including “car sharing services”.

  • Mellisa & James

    I have no problem with, Uber / Lyft except they are not above the law . They should comply with the Law just like anyone of us must do ; Here’s the law……….

    V C Section 23123.5 Electronic Wireless Communications Device
    Prohibited Use

    Electronic Wireless Communications Device:
    Prohibited Use

    23123.5. (a) A person shall not drive a motor
    vehicle
    while using an electronic wireless communications device
    to write, send,
    or read a text–based communication, unless the
    electronic wireless
    communications device is specifically designed
    and configured to allow
    voice operated and hands-free operation to
    dictate, send, or listen to a
    text-based communication, and it is
    used in that manner while driving.

    (b) As used in this section
    “write, send, or read a
    text-based communication” means using
    an electronic wireless
    communications device to manually
    communicate with any person using a
    text-based communication,
    including, but not limited to, communications
    referred to as a
    text message, instant message, or electronic mail.
    Cal
    (c) For
    purposes of this section, a person shall not be
    deemed to be
    writing, reading, or sending a text–based communication if
    the
    person reads, selects, or enters a telephone number or name in
    an
    electronic wireless communications device for the purpose of
    making or
    receiving a telephone call or if a person otherwise
    activates or
    deactivates a feature or function on an electronic
    wireless
    communications device.

  • Anonymous

    Re : Uber
    I
    drove for Uber for slightly under two months and here’s what I
    found………….Uber is dangerous for public safety and must be
    shut down . Having to tap a small icon on the Uber device ( phone )
    to accept, cancel, arriving, etc., and more takes your eyes
    completely off of the road . You are oblivious to traffic for those
    few seconds your looking at your Uber device which can easily cause
    accidents resulting in immediate death & injury . Even if you,
    yourself cancels the fare you must proceed with why you are
    cancelling to the little green icons on your Uber device and doing so
    is a distraction, period . There are 6 icons on your Uber device
    requesting why your cancelling & you must select one by tapping
    on one of the icons . This is frequently done while driving diverting
    your eyes off the traffic ahead of you and this happened often …..
    the client will cancel for one reason or another . I received the
    cancellation notice while I was driving and while I was driving my
    eyes were taken off the road so I could respond to the beeping sound
    coming from my Uber device . This beeping sound indicates that the
    client has cancelled the fare . When getting close to the pick up
    location while driving you are required to notify the client by again
    having to locate your Uber device ( some of the drivers keep it on
    their lap ) then tapping on an “ arriving “ icon. This is more
    dangerous then texting .
    Furthermore, there is no time limit to
    driving . Unlike Taxi drivers who are limited to a ten hour driving
    period in, San Francisco an Uber driver can drive for 20 hours
    straight or more . Too much driving creates fatigue often leading to
    confusion, , falling asleep, hallucinations, dozing off and
    considerably more inattentiveness which can cause accidents resulting
    in injury and even death .
    Being an Uber driver means you are
    subjected to violating laws ( that were put there for public safety )
    such as take eight passengers in your car when there are only four
    seat belts or you will be FIRED by Uber . In my case I got a call to
    take nine passengers, including myself that which would have been ten
    people total all in a mini van . The weight itself is enough to cause
    my tires to rub against the wheel wells of my van creating sparks
    from stones trapped in the threading of my tires which could ignite
    the fuel tank causing an explosion even killing all those passengers
    that are trapped inside my mini Van . It was dangerous . That much
    weight often causes unintentional swerving resulting in another
    accident with more deaths or injuries . Because I didn’t take all
    nine passengers out to, Isla Vista from downtown Santa Barbara and
    only took the legal amount of five ( six including myself ) the
    passengers gave me a one rating . So, over safety concerns I was
    FIRED by Uber from driving for doing what was lawfully right and
    after I explained to my, Santa Barbara – Uber representatives via
    email numerous times about having to take too many passengers
    creating unsafe driving conditions so I could be reinstated my
    request was ignored . You are rated after each fare by your
    passenger(s) from one to five and if your rating is too low you will
    be FIRED . This causes drivers to violate the law in order to
    maintain a high rating or their driving privileges with Uber will be
    suspended . So, refusing to take all nine passengers ( 10 including
    myself ) because it is unlawful , dangerous and of a safety concern
    to your passengers and yourself is a reason a driver will be FIRED .
    This means failing to run red lights at customer request means you
    will be FIRED by Uber .
    There are no vehicle inspections required
    by Uber drivers meaning if your car’s brakes are failing or wipers
    not working it’s still OK to drive in the rain . Does Uber care
    your brakes are failing or wipers aren’t working ? Probally not .
    They just want their 20% share of your fare and will claim no
    responsibility if your involved in an accident because they will say
    your an independent driver . Then if a claim is put against the
    driver’s insurance Company that claim will be denied because you
    were using the vehicle commercially . It is illegal to use your
    vehicle commercially unless you get commercial registration and
    insurance . Uber drivers do not have commercial insurance and
    probally most don’t get commercial registration for their vehicles
    or the proper insurances so driving commercially for Uber is
    technically illegal . Not getting commercial plates and insurance
    means the loss of millions of dollars for all States .