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Wednesday, 24 December 2014 13:26

Uber Sydney apologises for terror price 'surge' Featured

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When Uber’s prices rose dramatically during the afternoon of Sydney’s shocking terror siege, people complained, Uber promised refunds and today it has apologised again.

Uber’s taxi-monopoly busting endeavours have ruffled many feathers around the world over the past few years for many reasons.

The Uber-X system that allows anyone with a car to engage in ride-sharing has created situations where disgruntled luxury car owners have sought to place citizen’s arrests on drivers.

Uber drivers have been accused of rape overseas, while Uber’s management has been accused of using a ‘God mode’ within Uber to spy on journalists, along with threats by an Uber executive to ‘dig dirt’ on journalists it didn’t like.

There’s also Uber’s policy of charging for both time and distance, which has seen some people surprised by higher than expected prices for Uber rides, in stark contrast to Uber being seen as a more affordable and faster alternative to traditional taxis.

Then there is Uber’s policy of raising rates when demand is high, known as ‘surge pricing’, which is designed to bring more drivers to an area and which plays upon the law of supply and demand.

In normal circumstances this is perfectly acceptable - it is capitalism at work, and working well, but when the circumstances around supply and demand are warped because of the threat of terrorism, it is understandable that this created outrage.

So, while Uber quickly reacted on the day that Sydney faced its first true terror threat on Monday 15 December 2014, to reports that it was costing some $100 to leave Sydney’s CBD, by announcing it was making rides free and would reimburse anyone that had paid the sky high rates, Uber has felt it necessary to apologise again.

It has done this today, 24 December 2014, with a note from ‘David and the team at Uber Sydney’.

Aber Sydney’s apology is listed in full below:

“AN APOLOGY FROM UBER SYDNEY

“The events of last week in Sydney were upsetting for the whole community and we are truly sorry for any concern that our process may have added.

“Our priority was to help get as many people out of the CBD safely in the midst of a fast-moving event. The decisions we made were based only on helping to achieve this but we communicated this poorly, leading to a lot of misunderstanding about our motivations.

“Surge pricing is algorithmic and kicks in automatically when demand for rides outstrips the supply of cars that are on the road. This encourages more drivers to the area where people are requesting rides. As an increasing number of people were requesting rides that morning in the CBD, surge pricing came into effect automatically and this is when you might have seen higher prices.

“We didn't stop surge pricing immediately. This was the wrong decision. We quickly reversed course and provided free rides to people needing to leave the CBD. In the end, no rider was charged to leave the CBD on Monday and all higher fares resulting from surge pricing earlier in the day were fully refunded.

“It's unfortunate that the perception is that Uber did something against the interests of the public. We certainly did not intend to. We will learn from this incident and improve as a result of this lesson. Uber is committed to ensuring users have a reliable ride when they need it most - including and especially during disasters and relevant states of emergency. We take our community commitment very seriously in the 250+ cities Uber serves around the globe.

“Please know that we have listened to the feedback and we are working to standardise a global policy to ensure we're serving communities in the most efficient, effective and helpful way possible at all times. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims' families, those that were injured and the Sydney community of which we are so proud to be a part.

“Have a happy holidays,

“David and the team at Uber Sydney”.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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