An avid supporter of ride technology, Yuanhan Yang is very excited about companies like Uber making their Vancouver debut.
But after he said the company mysteriously forbade him to provide services – without any explanation – he feels he was taken for a ride.
"They should not restrict access to this kind of public service to members … in their sole discretion, especially when they provide no explanation when there is no appeal process." Said Yang.
"With great power comes great responsibility, and if they're becoming a public service, I think companies like Uber should take on their social responsibility a little more."
Yang said the problem began on September 26 when he was visiting Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto, and needed a ride.
Yang had a Uber account he used while living in Montreal. He deleted it when he moved to Vancouver – where there is no legal ride yet – in 2017 because he felt it would better protect his personal data.
When the 25-year-old software product manager attempted to book his trip in Mississauga, he received a warning that his account was disabled. He contacted Uber customer support through in-app messaging, and an agent said the account was disabled as a precaution but has now been reactivated.
It was not.
He tried to book twice more, but each time Uber deactivated his account.
Then you tried unsuccessfully once again and then once again contacted customer support, who reported that your account was suspended for violating company terms and conditions.
He contacted the company through the app, via Facebook Messenger and email to find out why. He also visited the company's Vancouver office, but no one told him why the account was banned.
After CBC News investigated its case, the company admitted that its security systems mistakenly detected "suspicious behavior" by Yang and suspended the account. He said the situation is an anomaly and is apologizing to him.
But Yang says the company can do better, and one researcher says his case illustrates the dangers of algorithms' influence on mobility.
& # 39; Suspicious Behavior & # 39;
In a statement, Uber said the company is working with Yang to understand the situation.
"Our security systems constantly monitor suspicious behavior to protect our users from fraud," wrote a spokesman in an email.
"In certain cases, the system will flag activities for further review by our specialists, and we will hold the account while we complete an investigation."
Uber did not explain what Yang did to trigger the security response and did not answer questions about Yang's lack of explanation or what his investigation might entail.
Yang said a Uber engineer told him last week that his account should be working now, but on Thursday afternoon that doesn't seem to be the case, he said.
Limited taxi refusals in B.C.
The British Columbia government outlined rules for hitchhiking companies like Uber and Lyft in July. They should start trading soon.
One of these rules expands the role of the provincial branch of passenger transport. A Transport Ministry spokesman said that if Yang's problem happened in B.C., he could complain to the branch.
"The agency has the ability to impose administrative fines and fines for travel denials or restrictions," the spokesman wrote in an email.
At Metro Vancouver, the Taxi Bill of Rights strictly limits the circumstances under which a taxi driver may refuse service to a passenger, as if he is threatening the driver's safety or if he is disorderly or smoking.
& # 39; Inherently discriminatory & # 39;
Carolyn Bauer, general manager of Yellow Cab and spokeswoman for the Vancouver Taxi Association, said the agency's complaints process is important to ensuring a level playing field.
"Shared Tour Companies Stand Alone to Respond to Consumer Complaints [elsewhere]"Bauer said." And if they don't want to call back, they won't get answers. "
Garland Chow, emeritus professor at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, said a case like Yang's illustrates the dangers of letting algorithms decide who does and doesn't ride. Chow was a consultant for the taxi association in 2015.
"THE [ride-hailing] The model, as it is configured, is inherently discriminatory, "said Chow, referring to reports from some hitchhiking companies that allow drivers to classify passengers or refuse services for arbitrary reasons, such as a very short and therefore unprofitable ride.
Yang probably won't be in B.C. when hitchhiking the road: he's about to move to Seattle for a job opportunity.
Uber is well established in this city, and he hopes to be able to use the service smoothly.