Elizabeth Wilson is “permanently banned” by Uber. But why? There’s only one way to find out.
Question: I’m a Fulbright scholar in India, and I’m having a little trouble with Uber. I have two separate Uber accounts, one for the United States and one for India.
A few weeks ago, I had to cancel an Uber ride after waiting 40 minutes. Uber charged a penalty but wouldn’t let me pay in cash and denied my credit cards. It also sent me a message telling me they had deleted my American account — at my request — and were sorry to see me go.
I just discovered that my Indian Uber has also been disabled. Uber won’t tell me why, only that I’ve been permanently banned. I’ve been trying to get this sorted out. I rely on Uber for transportation. Can you help? — Elizabeth Wilson, New Delhi, India
Answer: Uber should tell you why you’ve been banned and offer a way to get unbanned. But in reviewing the messages between you and the company, it seems you were caught in a cycle of form responses that didn’t really say anything, other than that Uber respects your privacy. That’s maddening.
Before I continue, a disclaimer: I know you personally, having met during a Fulbright year in Germany back in the 90s. To avoid any appearance of conflict, I asked Michelle Friedman, one of my advocates, to handle this case. It’s nice to hear from you after all these years.
Like any large company, Uber tries to automate customer service functions. Some of the interactions you had with the company may not have involved people at all, but artificial intelligence (AI) that responds to questions. (If you use Gmail, you can see an example of AI in the suggested responses at the bottom of some of your messages.) In other words, it’s possible Uber had no idea it was giving you the runaround.
You’re trying to answer two questions, really. First, did canceling a ride cause you to be blacklisted? And second, how do you get your account reinstated?
When a company starts sending you meaningless form responses, you have to take your case up the chain. Here are Uber’s executive email addresses.
The answer to your first question is “no.” Simply canceling a ride wouldn’t put you on any blacklist. It’s not clear why your account was canceled, but when a ride is 40 minutes late, you have every right to cancel the call and to receive a refund. Uber shouldn’t, and wouldn’t, punish a customer for the shortcomings of one of its own drivers.
On question two, you were technically in violation of Uber’s terms, which state, “unless otherwise permitted by Uber in writing, you may only possess one Account.” But who reads those contracts, anyway?
After we reached out to Uber, it apologized for suspending your account and pointed out the language in its terms. A representative also called you to explain why you were banned. Your account has been reinstated.