Uber is facing more public outrage after introducing ‘surge pricing’ in downtown Sydney during yesterday’s armed hostage crisis, with fares increasing to four times the usual rate.
The increased pricing is a result of automatic surge pricing that is meant to get more Uber drivers online. The Uber app showed a ‘Surge Pricing’ screen because ‘demand was off the charts!’.
According to Uber’s website, increased pricing is implemented to get more cars on the road and ‘ensure reliability during the busiest times’. When enough cars are on the road, prices go back down to normal levels.
In an initial statement, Uber claimed they were following standard process and confirmed the fare increase via their Twitter account. The tweet read “We are all concerned with events in CBD. Fares have increased to encourage more drivers to come online & pick up passengers in the area.”
Uber doesn’t try to hide the fact they implement surge pricing, and it’s an automated process, however in an emergency situation such as Sydney’s hostage crisis, public outcry is suggesting the increased prices are yet another callous move by a company that’s beginning to gain a reputation for putting profits before people.
The price surge follows a flood of public controversy in recent weeks, including reports it has been plotting against journalists, being banned in Spain and Thailand, sued by San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Portland, as well as being forced to shut down operations in Delhi after a passenger was allegedly raped by an Uber driver.
The company quickly addressed the situation following outrage across various social media platforms, offering refunds to users. A statement on Uber’s blog announced that all rides out of Sydney’s central business district would be free until the hostage situation was resolved. “Our thoughts are with those affected and the Police Force,” it reads.
The hostage crisis came to an end early this morning after police raided the café. The gunman and two hostages have been killed. There were 17 hostages in total, five of which escaped yesterday.
"We are saddened to hear of the tragic events last night and our thoughts are with the victims. We stand with our fellow Sydnesiders during this sad time and apologise for the confusion around our dynamic pricing," Uber said in a statement to Techday.