- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 19, 2016

A class-action lawsuit filed Monday against Uber accuses the ride-share service of using phony shell accounts in hopes of hurting business for the company’s top competitor, Lyft.

Attorneys representing Lyft driver Ryan Smythe and “others similarly situated” filed the class-action complaint in San Francisco Superior Court this week against Uber Technologies Inc. and 100 unnamed entities said to exist as “mere shells and conduits” for Uber’s affairs.

Mr. Smythe began driving for Lyft in September 2014, one month after accusations starting to surface concerning “Operation SLOG,” an alleged Uber-sponsored campaign that involved spamming Lyft drivers with fake ride requests in an effort to drive down business.

After acquiring internal documents and interviewing several of the ride-share service’s former and current contractors, The Verge reported in August 2014 that Uber was indeed operating a “sabotage campaign” in which dummy Lyft accounts were being created with prepaid cellphones and credit cards and subsequently used to place fake requests with Lyft drivers.

In this week’s lawsuit, the Lyft driver claim’s Uber’s alleged operation amounted to unfair business practices under California law as well as intentional interference with prospective economic advantage.

The complaint said Uber engaged in a “systematic course of creating fraudulent Lyft accounts from which sham orders were placed, at least in part to deprive Class members from earning income in violation of California Business and Professions Code which prohibits unfair business practice.”

Mr. Smythe claims he “experienced fraudulent requests for service from fraudulent Lyft accounts,” and states Uber directed its drivers and third-party companies to make these requests “for the sole purpose of luring Lyft drivers to locations in which a false request for service directed them.”

“Uber Technologies did this to discourage Lyft drivers from contracting with Lyft, to deprive the marketplace of Lyft drivers so that Uber drivers could benefit and to create a higher wait time for Lyft customers in order to steer their patronage to Uber Technologies in violation of California Business and Professions Code,” the complaint reads in part.

Mr. Smythe is seeking nominal, compensatory and punitive damages and restitution, and he wants the case certified to class-action status.

Attorneys Mr. Smythe and Uber’s media representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment placed by Courthouse News, where the lawsuit was first reported on Wednesday this week.

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