The Lyft driver who picks you up may be getting cheated out of the money you're paying for the ride. Fed up, drivers reached out to our sister station NBC 4 in Los Angeles for help.
Brian Bleecker has been driving for Lyft in Southern California for more than two years. He said he's been happy, but he admits it's not an easy living.
"I'm struggling to make this work full time," he said. "I wasn't sure my house payment was going to clear this month."
Bleecker gets paid per ride. He thinks Lyft pays him the rider fare, minus a 20 percent cut that Lyft takes. He said that's what he agreed to when he signed up.
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But, Bleecker recently heard rumblings that Lyft wasn't being upfront about what it's charging riders. So, he asked some of his riders to help him investigate.
"I was totally floored that it didn't match. It didn't make any sense," Bleecker said.
Here's what he told NBC 4 he found: A rider paid Lyft $22.16 for a ride, but the fare Lyft reported to Bleecker was $17.78.
Another ride: Lyft charged the rider $48.46, but Lyft told Bleecker the rider paid just $35.47.
Lyft is paying Bleecker based on a fare that's lower than what it's charging the rider. Bleecker said Lyft is pocketing money that should be his, and also duping the rider, leading them to believe the driver is paid based on the fare they paid.
"I'm overwhelmed that this is happening," he said.
NBC 4 heard this same story from dozens of Lyft drivers who feared retaliation by the company if they spoke to us.
So, NBC 4 took some rides to see how their claims played out. Time and time again, the fare Lyft reported to the driver was lower than what we paid, usually by a buck or two, but in a ride to LAX, there was a $12 difference.
"They're breaching their deal. They're being deceptive. They're being misleading," said Attorney Stephan Mashel.
Mashel is representing a New Jersey Lyft driver in a class action lawsuit against the company. The suit accuses Lyft of deceiving drivers and shorting their paychecks.
According to the suit, Mashel claims Lyft is secretly making two fare calculations per ride. One determines what riders pay. And the second determines what drivers are paid. Mashel said the driver formula is almost always lower.
"Those monies go into the coffers of Lyft that should go into the pockets of the hard working drivers who are trying to make a living doing rides and providing a service to customers," Mashel said.
Mashel believes Lyft is hiding the fare discrepancy and that it should be clearly disclosed in its contract with drivers. He said Lyft recently made the fare calculations more available, but he argues it's still difficult to find.
Mashel wants Lyft to simply pay drivers based on the fare riders pay.
Bleecker and the other drivers who talked to NBC 4 want the same thing.
"There has to be some retribution, some fairness to it," Bleecker said.
Lyft didn't respond to repeated phone calls and emails for this story. The company has filed a motion to dismiss the case.
The two sides are scheduled to meet with a judge in January.