New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) unveiled a proposal Monday requiring vehicle services that take only credit cards for payment to let customers add a gratuity.
Ride-services company Uber Technologies Inc may be required to provide passengers a way to tip their drivers, despite its longstanding resistance, if a plan by New York City's taxi regulator is implemented.
In a blog by its policy team previous year, Uber said it considered building a tipping option into the app but ultimately decided against it "because we felt it would be better for riders and drivers to know for sure what they would pay or earn on each trip - without the uncertainty of tipping".
Lyft, Uber's biggest competitor in the U.S., already offers passengers the option to tip drivers through its app.
A petition created by the Independent Drivers Guild has gained 11,000 signatures in favor of electronic tipping as they strongly feel it will help drivers make a living wage. The taxi commission has the authority to initiate rulemaking on its own, but rules must be certified by city legal authorities.
Ever since Uber agreed to recognize the IDG as its drivers' representative last May, the group has put tipping at the top of its demands-and gotten nowhere.
Any tipping proposal faces a protracted process before it becomes a rule Uber must follow. A spokesman for rival car-ride service Lyft added, "We've always known that offering in-app tipping is the right thing to do, which is why we've offered it since our earliest days".
Today's decision is a vitally important step forward for drivers. Drivers and passengers will get a chance have a say at a public hearing.
They also want that these taxis be run according to a Delhi government authorised meter, which should be certified by Standardisation Testing and Quality certification (STQC).
The Guild said in a press statement that a tipping feature would mean an extra $300 million per year for New York City drivers.
Uber, meanwhile, has previously argued that tipping is influenced by personal bias (race and gender have both been associated with tipping variances), and that it could lead to drivers flocking around affluent neighborhoods where people are likely to tip more.
Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang said the company will review the proposed rule once it's drafted. "I found myself having to work longer hours to make the same money", he said. At that point, a final rule is posted and then voted on by the TLC board of commissioners.