Scandal of the tech darlings: $18bn Uber and $700m Lyft get dirty

It was all looking so peachy for Uber, with its $18bn valuation and its rampant acceleration towards world domination. (The taxi-booking app is now in around 60 markets worldwide is growing aggressively.)

Then along came accusations from main rival Lyft this week that 177 Uber employees had made more than 5,000 fake booking requests from Lyft then cancelled them, to disrupt Lyft’s service and dent its drivers’ income.

So Uber has just hit back with claims that, actually, Lyft staff have booked then cancelled nearly 13,000 Uber trips – and that one of the bookings was made by none other than a Lyft co-founder.

Lyft, by the way, is valued at a (comparatively modest) $700m, and is present in only a third of the markets Uber operates in, but Uber certainly sees it as competition.

The bitter rivalry between the two taxi-booking apps has also previously seen them under-cutting each other’s prices and, according to the Wall Street Journal, stealing each other’s drivers and copy each other’s innovations.

But these accusations are taking the rivalry to new lows. So what’s fuelling this latest spat?

Uber claims that Lyft investors have been trying to get Uber to buy the company, and that these “questionable tactics” are a rebuke to Uber not taking up the offer.

An Uber spokesman said: “A number of Lyft investors have recently been pushing Uber to acquire Lyft. One of their largest shareholders recently warned that Lyft would ‘go nuclear’ if we do not acquire them.

“We can only assume that the recent Lyft attacks are part of that strategy.”

Lyft accused Uber of fake bookings earlier this week, saying it had cross-referenced the phone numbers of the fake bookings and sourced them to Uber employees.

Lyft shared the data with CNN Money, claiming that one Uber recruiter made almost 700 cancellations through 14 accounts.

So what now? This battle is only set to get dirtier. Watch this space.

Do you think these tactics are fair? Let me know @sophiehobson

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