FBI and US attorney office probing Uber's tactics

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US attorney's office in New York are probing Uber's tactics and software to possibly illegally interfere with Lyft, its largest US competitor.

The investigation is looking into Uber's use of a special programme internally called ''Hell,'' people with knowledge of the proceedings, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorised to speak publicly, said, The New York Times reported. The programme had been used by Uber to gain an edge over Lyft in markets where both companies operated, the people said.

An Uber spokesman confirmed that the ride-hailing company was cooperating with the investigation but declined further comment. The Wall Street Journal had reported the investigation earlier.

Uber appointed a new chief executive last month, even as the ride-hailing company grapples with the fallout from past actions under Travis Kalanick, its former chief. Kalanick used aggressive practices in building Uber, which often came close to breaching the boundaries of the law and have led to numerous legal headaches.

The justice department is also looking into an Uber software programme, named ''Greyball,'' which was used to evade law enforcement in cities where the company's ride-hailing service was not allowed to operate.

''Hell'' was reportedly a secret software programme that created fake Lyft passenger accounts, which allowed Uber to keep tabs on Lyft drivers, including the ones that also drove for Uber. With the information, Uber dangled financial incentives to ensure drivers worked exclusively for Uber.

According to The Information, which was the first to report about ''Hell'' in April, the programme was in force from 2014 to early 2016, and that former CEO Travis Kalanick, who was ousted in June but remains a major shareholder and board member, was among a few people who knew about it.

According to legal experts, ''Hell'' could constitute breach of contract, unfair business practices, theft of trade secrets and violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.