Keith Morrison is banned by Uber.
The ridesharing company won’t tell him why, which isn’t that unusual. It’s almost impossible to get a straight answer from Uber when it blacklists a customer.
Keith Morrison is also not banned by Uber.
The company has no problem doing business with him — as a driver. It trusts him to continue shuttling customers around the Orlando suburbs. He just can’t be a passenger.
This Uber ban is one of the strangest — no, the strangest — ridesharing problem that has ever crossed my desk. And wait until I open the hood on Morrison’s problem. It’s only gonna get even weirder.
Along the road, we’ll discover:
- How to get banned by Uber
- What your rights are if Uber blacklists you.
- How to get unbanned by Uber
Gentlemen and ladies, start your engines!
Your account has been “flagged” for closure
Morrison’s trouble started in early March when he tried to hail an Uber.
“All seemed to be fine when I entered the location and then selected the trip, it said they were locating a driver,” he recalls. “And then it said my payment was denied.”
Maybe he had the wrong credit card information, he thought. So he switched to a different card. Still nothing.
“Then I contacted customer service and they said they could not resolve the problem but would have it looked into and someone would contact me,” he says.
The circumstances were even worse than what he’s saying. I’ll get to that in a moment when we take a look at the messages between Morrison and Uber.
Shortly after that, he received an email saying that his account had been “flagged” for closure.
“They would offer no other information except to send me a copy of their terms and conditions,” he says. “I kept responding back to them that this was unsatisfactory, asking for more information on why and when I was flagged.”
Uber refused to answer his questions.
But wait, I drive for Uber!
Here’s where things took a bizarre turn. Morrison is an Uber driver. He’s not just any driver, but a diamond-level driver in Uber’s driver loyalty program, the highest level. He’s completed over 20,000 Uber rides.
“As a diamond driver, Uber offered me the chance to rent an EV for driving,” he says. “In addition, Uber had given me a $40 voucher to apply towards the ride and it was applied to my account that has been flagged.”
In other words, Morrison is one of Uber’s best drivers. He’s so good that Uber is offering to pay for his EV rental. And it rewarded him by applying a $40 voucher to his, which it promptly closed.
What the heck?
“I would like an explanation,” he says. “And I want the $40 voucher credited to my account to cash out.”
That makes two of us. How can Uber ban someone as a rider but lavish them with incentives as a driver? Also, how can Uber trust someone to drive their customers, but not to be a passenger?
How do you get banned by Uber?
Uber can ban riders for several reasons, most of them pretty obvious. They include:
Trashing the car
Damaging or dirtying an Uber vehicle can lead to an account termination. That includes leaving trash or spills, smoking, or causing intentional damage to the interior or exterior of the car.
Committing a crime
If you use an Uber ride to commit fraud or any other crime, Uber will suspend your account. A few days ago, I heard from a reader whose mother became ensnared in a scam that used Uber to transport unwitting victims to their bank so they could make wire transfers. That’s a no-no.
Getting high or drunk
Lighting up, shooting up, or having an open container of alcohol is not allowed.
Assaulting your driver
If you take a swing at your driver, they’ll suspend your account — permanently. You don’t even have to touch the driver. Offensive language, making threats, or engaging in discriminatory behavior based on race, ethnicity, or gender, is enough.
Bringing your gun
Firearms are not allowed in an Uber. Bringing one can lead to a permanent ban.
But did you know Uber could just stop doing business with you because it wants to?
Uber doesn’t even need a reason to ban you
Believe it or not, Uber doesn’t even need a reason to terminate your account. Here’s the relevant language from its contract.
Uber, in its sole discretion, may immediately terminate these Terms or any Services with respect to you, or generally cease offering or deny access to the Services or any portion thereof, at any time for any reason. (Emphasis mine.)
Put differently, there may be other reasons that Uber decides to close your account. It can ban you anytime it wants and for any reason. For example, Uber will delete accounts that have been inactive for an extended period. (Related: Uber owes me $100. Can you help me get it back?)
But the bottom line is this: Uber’s legal agreement gives it a license to suspend your account without telling you why. And that’s exactly what it was doing with Morrison. But would he be able to get Uber to talk?
What should I do if I’ve been banned by Uber?
You can file an appeal through the form on Uber’s site. If Uber doesn’t respond, you can appeal the decision to one of the executives we list on this site. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)
Uber’s process for evaluating banned accounts is a black box. But we do know there are two types of account restrictions — suspensions and permanent bans.
Suspensions are reserved for less serious infractions. For example, in 2018, Uber said it would suspend rider accounts with less than a four-star rating for six months in a move designed to improve behavior. We haven’t received any recent complaints, so it may have been a temporary measure.
Say you took a stern tone with your Uber driver, which he interpreted as being verbally abusive. You might find your account suspended temporarily while Uber lets you cool off.
But if you unleashed a tirade of expletives and slapped your Uber driver, then your ban would be permanent. (You’ll be lucky if the police aren’t called.)
If you’re a driver, you’re entitled to what it calls a review by a panel that is “human-led” — in other words, there’s no AI arbitrarily deciding if you’re in or out.
What we know about Uber’s account terminations for riders
We don’t know how the system works for riders. But here are a few things we do know:
Uber bannings are rare
They’re rare compared to other sharing economy companies like Airbnb, which loves to ban customers without telling them why. That may be because Uber still has a meaningful competitor that would gladly take the customer. However, note that both ridesharing companies reportedly share banned driver lists.
The appeals process is opaque
I mean, really opaque. Uber won’t say how it processes appeals or whether a person reviews the appeals for rider suspensions. Based on what we know about other sharing economy bannings, most of Uber’s process is handled by an algorithm, as are appeals. One telltale sign that an AI is behind the process is speed. If Uber denies your appeal with superhuman speed, chances are there’s ChatGPT-like technology behind it.
Most appeals are successful
Unlike some sharing economy companies (cough, cough, Airbnb), which ban customers en masse and offer no hope of reinstatement, Uber’s process seems straightforward and often resolves in the customer’s favor. We know because complaints from jilted Uber riders are very unusual.
I have more on ridesharing in my ultimate guide to ridesharing. But for Morrison, the problem was about to get much worse.
“Please, I’m stranded!”
I warned you this would get weirder. So here’s what happened when Morrison tried to reach out to Uber.
I’ll just play the tape:
Morrison: I cannot get a ride. It keeps telling me my payment does not work. I have added three different cards all of which are good to go. I am not sure if it is because you have my old home address and I am using the ZIP for my current home.
Uber: Thanks for providing this information. We’ll connect you to the next available customer support representative.
Hi Keith, thanks for being a member. Please give me 2 to 3 minutes to put this chat on hold while I check this for you.
Morrison: Please, I’m stranded. I just dropped a Tesla rental and was hoping to use the voucher to get home, but it does not allow me now it is not accepting any payments. I am also a diamond driver.
Morrison had to find another way to get home that day, because Uber wasn’t letting him use the platform. And worse, it wouldn’t explain why.
So why did they blacklist this Uber driver?
I asked Morrison why Uber might have banned him.
I have a standard list of questions. Did you commit a crime? Are you connected to someone who has? Did you have any kind of incident on a recent Uber ride? No, no, and no.
I asked him if he could think of any other reason.
“I have absolutely no idea,” he told me. “Uber never contacted me and I last used the app in 2021. My husband usually orders rides when we travel. I can only assume there is confusion with accounts.”
Ah-ha. Remember how I said Uber may delete accounts that are inactive? That might have done it.
Still, Morrison wasn’t getting any answers from Uber. He needed the A-Team’s help.
Can Uber reinstate this banned driver?
I contacted Uber on Morrison’s behalf. A few days later, I heard from a representative who promised to look into his problem.
Then he received the following email from Uber:
This is Sean with Priority Support, reaching out as a follow-up to our phone call from earlier today regarding your rider account issue.
When certain activity is detected on your account it would be flagged by our system. As a precaution, we would temporarily restrict your access. This measure was put into place to protect and safeguard all accounts.
It looks like your account may have been flagged by our systems in error. After carefully reviewing, we’re confident in removing that restriction so you can continue normal usage.
You should now be able to request a trip normally. Additionally, to help make up for this poor experience, I have added $50 in Uber Cash to your account.
If you have any additional questions or concerns, feel free to reach back out on this message.
Hmm, “flagged by our systems in error”?
That’s some error that would allow one of Uber’s best drivers to have his rider account suspended. And making matters worse, Uber stranded him and refused to give him a straight answer.
The takeaway? Make sure your Uber account works before you need it
This is a teachable moment for Uber and the rest of us passengers. Uber needs to take a closer look at the account deactivation process and ensure there’s a way riders can quickly appeal a misunderstanding. In Morrison’s case, the system failed.
But for the rest of us, the biggest takeaway is this: Make sure you have a working Uber account before you hail a ride. Better yet, install a backup app like Lyft or a taxi app, so that you don’t depend solely on Uber. Because if Uber won’t think twice about stranding one of its best drivers, what do you think it will do to you?
About the art
Our art department drew its inspiration from the Bauhaus-era artist Paul Klee. We figured with a name like Uber, the Bauhaus theme was fitting. Sorry, make that Über.