Poaching drivers may be the norm for ride-sharing companies

Uber has tried to recruit Sidecar drivers too, the company's CEO said

It seems like poaching drivers is par for the course in the ride-sharing industry.

Like Lyft, Sidecar drivers have also been targeted by Uber's recruitment efforts, Sidecar's CEO said Thursday -- though he admitted that his own company has tried in-car recruitment in the past too.

Recruiters working for Uber have been ordering rides with Sidecar for some time then trying to get the driver to switch companies, Sidecar CEO Sunil Paul said in an interview.

It's happened in nearly all of the 10 cities where Sidecar operates, and recruiters sometimes offer drivers $500 to make the switch, he said.

Sidecar knows about the recruitment efforts because it hears about them from its drivers, Paul said. It hasn't received reports about Lyft using similar techniques.

Uber's recruitment efforts sparked controversy this week after The Verge published a report on its tactics, which include dispatching contractors with disposable smartphones to help them avoid detection.

Uber has responded that it can't recruit drivers from other companies without talking to them, and it denied reports that it intentionally cancelled rides to disrupt Lyft's business. (Uber has also accused Lyft of canceling rides, which Lyft denies.)

"We're not super surprised these tactics have finally come to light," Sidecar's Paul said. "It's no secret among drivers these tactics are deployed all the time."

But Sidecar has tried its own recruitment efforts in the past, if not to the same degree.

When asked, Paul acknowledged that Sidecar has tried in-car recruitment, though he said it's not currently doing so. And he said Sidecar doesn't use "deceptive tactics" for its recruitment, like using disposable phones to cover its tracks.

Still, it's starting to look like Uber's recruitment efforts aren't so unusual after all.

Paul declined to say how often Uber has tried to poach his drivers, and he said Sidecar doesn't try to track whether rivals are canceling rides.

"The truth is, we pay attention to our competitors, but we do not obsess about them," he said. "We're not there sitting at our screens looking for Uber users of our platform."

There's nothing unethical about offering incentives to work for a rival company, Paul said, "but what crosses the line is being deceptive about it."

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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