Has UberEats bitten off more than it can chew? Picture: Carmela Roche/AAP
Has UberEats bitten off more than it can chew? Picture: Carmela Roche/AAP

UberEats could be in big trouble

WHEN is a delivery company not a delivery company?

Australia's competition watchdog is investigating UberEats over allegedly "unfair" contracts which take a massive bite out of small businesses' profits and place responsibility for dodgy delivery drivers squarely back on the restaurants themselves.

Earlier this month, Sydney burger chef Josh Arthurs said he was severing ties with the "truly evil company" after his Burgers by Josh chainsaw its average review score plummet as a result of unhappy UberEats customers.

Echoing a similar complaint from Sydney's Petty Cash Cafe, Mr Arthurs slammed the onerous contract conditions under which UberEats takes a 35 per cent cut while requiring restaurants cover 50 per cent of any refunds, even if the driver is at fault for cold or spoiled food.

He said the drivers were untrained in food handling and customer service and "any Joe off the street can join", and the problem was made worse because drivers were "not paid much so they will take one job/food order and often stop in and get another along the way which results in customers getting cold food".

"As both a customer and food operational partner of this fascist company I have seen first-hand just how bad [an] experience it is for both parties involved," he wrote in a scathing Facebook post.

Speaking to the ABC earlier this week, UberEats general manger for Australia and New Zealand, Jodie Auster, admitted mistakes were made. "When we're delivering at this scale, some orders don't get there in under 30 minutes, some orders don't get there in the way that they have been originally intended," she said.

According to its contract, a copy of which was published by the ABC on Monday, UberEats requires restaurants to "acknowledge and agree that Uber is a technology services provider" and that it does not "provide any delivery or logistics services".

Rather, the app allows restaurants to "connect with independent providers of delivery services" who "shall operate under cover of your retail license privileges and control, as your agent, and not employee".

"For the sake of clarity ... you, through the services provided by the Delivery Partners, are responsible for the delivery of meals and you maintain possession, control and care of the meals at all times," the contracts read.

"You maintain title to all meal inventory until each meal is delivered to your customer. You are responsible for the costs of all substandard meals. You are responsible for costs related to reimbursement to your customers in the event any such customers request a refund for unsatisfactory meals."

According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, those terms may be unfair.

"The ACCC continues to be concerned that third-party delivery services can place unreasonable conditions on small business," a spokeswoman said in a statement.

"The ACCC will examine Uber's contracts with business and consumers for any potential breaches of the Australian Consumer Law. The ACCC will also consider any representations made by Uber to determine whether there is any misleading or deceptive conduct.

"The ACCC would have concerns where businesses impose terms impose terms and conditions that are one-sided. Certain terms and conditions may be legally unfair within the definition of the Unfair Contract Term prohibitions under Australian Consumer Law.

"These agreements can also impact on effective competition in the food delivery market."

An UberEats spokeswoman said: "We are actively co-operating and working with the ACCC to assist their investigation. Complying with Australian law is important to us and we will work with the ACCC to ensure this."

frank.chung@news.com.au


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