Uber's rider-controlled Spotify jams could cost drivers

uber driver
Credit: Uber

Uber drivers nice enough to let their passengers control a car’s music with Spotify might find themselves subsidizing the party.

A new partnership between Uber and Spotify, going into effect Friday, lets users of Spotify’s $10 monthly service act like DJs by pumping music through the car’s stereo with their smartphones. It’s optional and there’s no reason to think all drivers will go for it, but those who do may wish they hadn’t when they get the bill.

Drivers who opt in may find themselves charged for the music by their carrier if they’re using their own smartphone. For those drivers, “the data for music could be an additional cost,” Uber says in an online FAQ on the integration.

The integration works by letting the rider stream Spotify music or a playlist from Uber to the driver’s phone. From there, the music is played through the car’s speakers with an auxiliary cord. The integration does not yet support a Bluetooth connection to the car. Both the rider and the driver can control the volume, and the driver can still turn the music off at any time, Uber says.

When drivers sign up for Uber, they can choose between using a company-supplied smartphone or their own. Uber started letting drivers use their own phones in August through its “BYOD” plan, which is available in select cities, including Boston and San Francisco, with plans for a broader rollout. It’s likely to appeal to drivers who want to avoid the $10 weekly data fee Uber charges them for using company-supplied phones.

For the Spotify integration, Uber says it will cover the music data for drivers using a company-supplied phone. For BYOD drivers, the company is working with carriers to provide discounted or zero-rated music data plans, like the plans that are currently available to consumers.

Uber drivers have access to discounted phone plans. The company said Wednesday it would be working with carriers like AT&T and Verizon to expand those discounts through its ”rewards” program.

Beyond the data issues, the Spotify integration could symbolize Uber facing the music, with scandals tarring its reputation. The latest this week involved statements made by a top executive suggesting the company wanted to hire people to investigate journalists, followed by allegations that the company was tracking at least one journalist.

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