“Consumer safety fail by Uber Eats Sri Lanka – our personal experience”.

by Milinda Rajapaksha, Member of Colombo Municipal Council (SLPP) 

On August 1 2020, my wife ordered lunch from Uber Eats Sri Lanka. The rider handed her the food, and told her he had to take a photograph of the food. So she had held out the food to the left of her so he could take the photograph without capturing her in the frame.

This was when she realized his phone camera was not aimed at the food but at her. She had asked the rider what he was doing, and he had rudely said the app requires him to take a picture. Since we use Uber Eats regularly she knew this was true, but she still felt extremely uneasy that he had not taken a picture of the food but of her. She then asked to see the picture but by this time the rider was already about to leave. She also felt unsure about making a fuss in front of the man because she would be home alone, and felt uncomfortable knowing this man knew where we lived and could return.

As soon as he left, she checked the Uber Eats app to see whether he had uploaded the photo to the order receipt as riders usually do when they are required by the app to take a picture. However, even though he had closed the order, he had not in fact uploaded the picture to the app as he is required to do. Upon realizing this, she immediately then logged a complaint on the app regarding this issue – it was 1:15 pm.

At 1:36 pm and 2:15 pm on the same day (01/08/2020) she received two messages from Uber saying someone will be in touch with her. However, almost a week and many follow ups later, there was no response from Uber Eats Sri Lanka. Therefore, through a personal connection, I managed to escalate this issue to Uber Sri Lanka team.

Someone contacted my wife on Saturday Aug 8th from a US number, but since we were travelling and the connection was very patchy, she asked them to call back on Monday. On Monday too, she was contacted by a lady with an Indian name from a US number. At this point, my wife realized that 9 days later, they still had no resolution and had not conducted any investigation on this matter. Since this call and response given were completely unsatisfactory, she requested the matter be escalated further and she be given a proper update.

A few hours later she was contacted by yet another lady with an Indian name from a Bangalore number from the Uber Safety team. The calls were dropped multiple times due to bad connectivity as Uber Eats Sri Lanka does not even have a local customer hotline, and were depending on customer care teams based overseas to contact us. My wife asked this lady to email her a written explanation of why this response was so delayed (in fact, it was delayed until we escalated it through personal means), and what steps were being taken to address the issue along with timelines and the investigation reports. She was promised these within 24 hours. During this call she stressed that her personal information and details not be shared with the rider in question during the investigation as she was still very uneasy that this man knew where we live, and how he would react if called for an investigation which he knew was stemming from her. She was assured that the matter would be handled discreetly without any information about her being shared.

On Wednesday, she received a call from the Uber Eats Sri Lanka Country Manager who wanted to ‘personally apologize’ to my wife about her experience and the ‘inconvenience’ she faced. My wife explained again in detail that she did not require personal apologies but she wanted to know what action was taken and why it was so delayed and why Uber had waited till we escalated this personally to address this matter, which was in fact a grave security issue. The country manager explained that the investigation was completed and no pictures were found stored on this riders’ Uber Eats app. However my wife questioned how they can know for sure whether such a picture would be taken through the Uber app or the phone’s camera app – to which she received no satisfactory response. The country manager also shared some steps that would be taken to address similar issues in the future. My wife also reiterated that she requires a written explanation and details and timelines of steps taken along with investigation reports which were promised within 24 hours on Monday, but were not (even still) received. My wife ended that conversation not feeling convinced of the resolution of the matter, but hoping to put this behind her.

On Thursday morning, I realized there was a couple who was waiting for us at our gate. It turns out this is the rider and his wife who claimed we made him lose his job and now insisting he wanted to apologize to us and get us to get his job back. My wife was extremely upset and shaken, considering this was the exact thing she had feared and had asked Uber to ensure the rider not be told of her involvement during the investigation. I raised this matter immediately to the Uber Eats Sri Lanka country manager, and in response only got a text today saying she is very sorry for the inconvenience caused. My wife logged a complaint on the app and after following up again yesterday, received a call from an Indian lady from a US number who wanted to apologize and assure her of her safety – unfortunately which can’t be assured, since their investigation has already ended up with this individual coming to our home. The written details we requested on Monday which were promised within 24 hours, are yet to reach us five days later.

It is very concerning that Uber Eats takes no responsibility in consumer safety. Firstly, requiring the riders to take photographs gives them the opportunity to photograph what they want (people, house, landmarks, vehicle+number) and do as they please with the photographs.

Secondly the fact that despite a very serious consumer safety concern, even after a week and multiple follow ups, Uber Eats had made no attempt to contact my wife or investigate this rider or the matter.

Thirdly, that it took for us to escalate the matter through our personal means and influence for them to take this matter seriously and address it, and yet failed to provide us with any proper resolution.

Fourthly, after 10 days, they finally conducted an investigation and then failed so miserably in doing so discreetly, thereby exposing my wife’s involvement in the complaint, and creating a further risk for her to the extent that the individual concerned turned up at our doorstep.

My wife’s main concern in raising this issue was that this individual knew where we lived and had specifically raised this concern with Uber and was assured of discretion. She is now understandably upset and feeling unsafe in our own home as Uber has exposed her involvement in this matter and this man (just as she predicted) turned up at our home.

The fact that such a global company operates in Sri Lanka without a customer hotline or a local team that can be personally reached during a matter like this, is a gross violation of consumer rights; particularly when it has to do with a matter as sensitive as a woman’s safety and personal information.

Also unacceptable is the fact that Uber’s response to this was to first ignore the complaint, then delay the investigation, and then conduct the investigation in such a poor manner that it has now further exposed my wife to risk.

I am sure we are not the first, nor will we be the last to have our safety violated by Uber and Uber Eats. It’s important to us to figure out how to hold these companies accountable to protect our privacy and ensure our safety, when the company doesn’t even have a physical presence or a customer hotline in the country. How will consumer rights be upheld and who will be responsible for safety breaches like this?

The post “Consumer safety fail by Uber Eats Sri Lanka – our personal experience”. appeared first on NewsWire.

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