Alleging the exact type of slimy business practices one might expect from a pair of food delivery apps best known for scamming restaurants out of their hard-earned money during a pandemic, the city of Chicago filed two separate lawsuits against DoorDash and Grubhub on Friday to accuse them of intentionally deceiving customers and restaurants alike.
Both suits allege that the platforms advertise delivery services for businesses without the consent or approval of owners, deliberately obscuring the fact that restaurants will often sell their food directly to customers for lower prices if they order directly from the business itself. The city is also accusing the platforms of deploying a “bait-and-switch” tactic that lures customers in with the promise of low delivery fees only to tack on surcharges at the last minute, and of covertly deploying marketing campaigns during the pandemic that listed phone numbers for local restaurants without their knowledge only to have them foot the bill on bogus “promotional” costs.
According to CNBC, both platforms have referred to the pair of lawsuits as “baseless,” arguing that they have policies in place to remove restaurants that don’t want to be listed whenever the business owner requests it and that they were able to contribute $500,000 to Chicago restaurants during the pandemic.
A DoorDash spokesperson told CNBC that the platform “has stood with the City of Chicago throughout the pandemic, waiving fees for restaurants, providing $500,000 in direct grants, creating strong earning opportunities, and delivering food and other necessities to communities in need.”
The large commissions that food delivery apps take from the restaurants they host have long drawn scrutiny, particularly during a pandemic that has forced thousands of businesses to shutter permanently. More recently, food delivery workers have also been vocal about the ways in which platforms like Grubhub, Doordash, Seamless and Uber Eats have eroded the basic job security and dignity that once existed when they interfaced with restaurants directly.
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“Things were somewhat better before because at least we had an employer and had a set schedule,” 37-year-old food delivery worker Gustavo Ajchee told The Counter in January. “The stability that existed between the restaurant and the workers is gone now. No matter how busy it was we still got paid by the hour. With the apps, you’re paid only when you make a delivery. If there is no delivery there is no money.”
The way that Doordash in particular handles tips for delivery drivers was the subject of a separate lawsuit from the attorney general of the District of Columbia, which the company settled in November for $2.5 million.