The Legal Argument That Could Destroy Uber Is About To Be Tested

“The case, which originated as Meyer v. Kalanick in 2015, was indeed a simple one: Uber’s drivers are independent contractors, a legal distinction Uber views as central to its business model. Yet Uber also sets the price that all those independent contractors must charge for their businesses. When a bunch of independent businesses agree to charge the same price for a product or service, that is generally called price fixing, and price fixing is very much illegal under the Sherman Antitrust Act.”


On October 23, an arbitrator will sit down in Uber’s New York office and hear arguments in a case that could determine the ride-hail giant’s future. It is not about the employment status of a single driver, but rather the very legality of Surge Pricing, Uber’s flagship feature that adjusts the price of rides according to supply and demand principles.

If the arbitrator rules against Uber, it could, in essence, make Surge Pricing illegal and, more broadly, call into question the legality of Uber’s entire business model of controlling the prices hundreds of thousands of independent contractors are permitted to charge.

“This has always been a simple case,” said Andy Schmidt, the lawyer who filed the original federal district court action back in late 2015. “Uber wants to have it both ways.”

And now, after almost four years, this “simple case” faces a big test. It’s the first time anyone…

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