Uber drivers in New York may soon be able to earn tips thanks to a new proposal.
The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has announced plans aimed at forcing all cab companies that take payment via credit card to offer a tipping option.
The move comes in response to a petition signed by 11,000 Uber drivers.
Rival services such as Lyft already offer a tipping option. However, Uber has always resisted such a move.
On its website, Uber said riders are not obliged to tip, but drivers can accept cash if offered.
In a statement, the ride-hailing app said it looked forward to reviewing the TLC’s proposal.
“Uber is always striving to offer the best earning opportunity for drivers and we are constantly working to improve the driver experience.
“That’s why, in New York City, we partnered with the Machinists Union to make sure current and future Uber NYC drivers have a stronger voice and launched a series of new tools and support policies for drivers,” the company said.
The suggested rules would need to go through several layers of approval before they can be enforced, a process expected to take several months.
Uber’s partnership with the Machinists Union, in which a sub-group known as the Independent Drivers Guild (IDG) has been formed, came in response to mounting pressure to allow Uber drivers to unionise.
The group falls short of being a fully-fledged union. Drivers will not be able to use the IDG to negotiate directly on pay or benefits, for example.
The IDG has welcomed the TLC’s move.
“Today’s decision is a vitally important step forward for drivers.
“In-app tipping will mean a raise of hundreds of millions of dollars for New York City drivers each year. Drivers have long been denied access to the kinds of benefits and labor protections many workers take for granted, such as paid sick leave or the minimum wage.
“As a result, New York City’s professional drivers have traditionally depended on gratuities for a substantial portion of their income. Cuts to driver pay across the ride-hail industry has made tipping income more important than ever,” said IDG founder Jim Conigliaro.
The IDG estimates tipping will be worth an extra $300m (£238m) to drivers in the city every year.
If New York City does force Uber to tip it could increase pressure on Uber from drivers in other cities around the world – many of which have concocted inventive ways to encourage tipping, often in vain as many riders do not have cash on hand.
“[Passenger] said he didn’t have cash on hand but offered me a bag of chips which I accepted,” wrote one driver from New Jersey on an Uber drivers forum.
“It’s worth $3, next time I go food shopping I will return the bag of chips for a refund.”