‘The owner just disappeared without paying me my earnings’: Unregulated delivery riders face exploitation

Many food delivery couriers rent accounts from people registered as self-employed, and typically earn less than €3 per delivery

Have you ever noticed that when ordering food for delivery on an app such as Deliveroo, the rider who delivers your food does not always match the photograph, or name, or gender, of the rider the app told you would be coming?

If you have, you are not alone. Many food delivery couriers in Ireland’s cities are living here on “stamp two” visas, which means they cannot work legally for the big delivery companies. Instead they rent accounts from individuals who can legally register as self-employed.

These accounts can cost riders anywhere between €50 and €150 a week.

Many also pay bicycle rental fees of up to €100 a week as they cannot afford the outright cost of an electric bike.


“To be able to work, I need to spend from my own income more or less €300 per week in bills,” says one rider, Marco*, who has been renting separate accounts from individuals with Just Eat and Deliveroo for two years.

Riders can increase their income by operating across several platforms but this typically means multiple rental fees.

“I was renting an Uber account and I was paying €150 per week,” another Dublin delivery rider, João, a Brazilian living here on an international student visa, says. “Also there is bike rental, which the amount per week depends on the store you go to. We also work with more than one account, so I pay this amount [to Uber] plus another €100 [to another app account], just to be able to work.”

The subletting of accounts is one of a number of issues of concern raised by riders and campaigners who are advocating on their behalf, amid claims of widespread exploitation in the sector.

Many delivery riders The Irish Times spoke to said they worked at least eight to 12 hours daily, up to seven days a week. Typically, they said they made only €2.90 per delivery, sometimes for two deliveries from the same restaurant.

“There are some cases of duplicated orders with earnings of also €2.90; it happens after you accept an order at a restaurant and then, when you arrive at the restaurant, the app will throw you another order,” a delivery rider, who did not wish to be named, said.

“This does not make sense – you should get paid for two deliveries, right? It is complicated to talk about the app, I think the app is too smart and I think their algorithm does not work in our favour,” she said.

The rider rents her Deliveroo account from a trusted friend, to avoid being scammed by people who say they will give her an account, take her money, but not follow through.

This happened to Rafael, who said that, while he was renting a delivery account, “the owner just disappeared without paying me my earnings ... frauds happen all the time,” he said.

Marco added that often he would use a friend’s account to work, to avoid being scammed.

“It is possible to get an account through Facebook, but when it’s through Facebook, we ask for documentation and everything, we have to be careful of fraud, which happens a lot,” he said.

“We ask where the person lives to check if everything matches and it’s fine. This we do for security reasons and to protect ourselves. If someone chose not to share his documents, this is a suspicious ... not a trustworthy sign.”

Some groups on Facebook advertise Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats accounts daily for fixed weekly fees, with many posts receiving comments of interest.

“This work is how we survive, we need to make sure that everything is right, you know? This kind of fraud happens to many people already, I’ve seen cases where people lost like €700 or €800,” Marco said.

Riders have also alleged that some account holders sell their account for a higher fee, meaning the person renting it loses access. However, there are many ways a rider could lose an account.

“I’ve had my account blocked for two months now, I lost [it] because the app had an account update, in which the account owner needs to update a document and take a photo to prove his identity. I don’t have the account owner’s contact information,” João said.

“I only have seven days to resolve it – if I don’t get it, the account will be cancelled, and most of the time that’s what happens, that’s because you can no longer contact the account owner. Some people can, some don’t.”

Fiachra Ó Luain, co-founder of the English Language Students’ Union of Ireland, who works closely with delivery riders, said the minimum payment for delivery had dropped from €4.39 to €2.90 in 2021.

“In more recent times we have seen jobs being offered for less than that, for in and around €1, €1.38, something like that, and it seems that they [the delivery companies] are testing the waters to see how low they can pay people,” Mr Ó Luain said.

“That’s what they are classifying as self-employment. Genuine self-employment is that if somebody is willing to accept a low order, then that’s them choosing their rate, but the rate is generated by the company, by the algorithm, as the primary actor and that’s basically the essence of their bogus self-employment.”

The Irish Times saw a sample of payments received by delivery riders to complete orders in Dublin. One job was priced at €4.68 for a 9.2km delivery that was scheduled to take more than 30 minutes. Another was priced at €7.07 for a 12.4km delivery. Smaller delivery jobs in Dublin city were priced under €3.

In response to queries, a Deliveroo spokeswoman said: “Riders in Ireland always earn at least the national minimum wage plus costs for time spent on orders while working with Deliveroo. In addition to this, we never pay less than €2.90 for a single delivery.” Also, “riders keep 100 per cent of any tips they receive”, she said.

However, the company would not disclose a figure for the average wage that riders received in Ireland.

“When we look at pay, we look at the pay for the time spent on an order, for which riders are guaranteed to earn the national minimum wage plus costs at least,” the spokeswoman said.

Deliveroo had clear processes and checks in place to ensure riders had the right to work in Ireland as self-employed, and it was a matter the company took “extremely seriously,” with a zero-tolerance approach, she added.

On the policing of unregulated labour, An Garda Síochána said it had a statutory obligation to investigate all reported crime.

“Where the undocumented immigration status of a non-national comes to the attention of an investigating member, the non-national will be advised to regularise their status in the State,” a Garda spokesperson said.

“However, all such cases will be managed sympathetically and in such a manner that will not adversely impact on the progress and result of the criminal investigation and a possible prosecution of the offender.”

The Garda recently announced that it will be increasing garda visibility in Dublin city in the wake of a number of high-profile assaults this summer. This includes planned days of high-impact visibility in the city centre involving checkpoints, executing warrants, service of summonses, intelligence-led searches and arrests, immigration checks and enforcement of road traffic offences.

Gig economy workers have told The Irish Times that planned immigration checks worry them, and that they feel this will lead to workers being targeted by gardaí.

One Brazilian rider shared a video he took while two gardaí searched him while he was going to buy cigarettes on O’Connell Street.

“I was working, when I was about to lock my bike, they said that a search had to be done,” Luiz said.

“They asked for my name and also for my GNIB [Garda National Immigration Bureau number]. They have searched my bag, my pant pockets. I started to record what was happening because it is always with us,” he said.

In a statement, the Garda said it would be looking at all types of criminality in the city centre. “That may include people not registering [to reside or work in Ireland] when they’re required to do so by legislation, or, in some circumstances, people who have deportation orders and who haven’t left the State in the time provided for them to do that.”

* Names were changed in this article to protect interviewees’ anonymity