Uber Apologises For Surge Pricing During The Sydney Siege

Uber has issued an email apology to its users in Sydney for the "algorithmic" surge pricing that saw fares jump massively during last week's Martin Place siege.

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

Whether this apology sounds sincere, or whether it changes your opinion of Uber's recent actions, is up to you. [Uber]


Comments

    I don't see any reason for Uber to be apologetic. Everyone knows their business model - in times of demand, the price goes up. People had many different ways to get out of the city - if unlike others you wish to be escorted out in a limousine, that's your prerogative and you should pay the appropriate fee for that luxury.

    Uber didn't unfairly profit from the situation - they didn't do anything different from what they normally do everyday. When there is high demand, the price goes up, and you accept that as part of the terms and conditions. Uber isn't a charity or a government service - it's capitalism pure and simple. If people didn't use Uber, the prices would have stayed at normal rates.

    If you don't like it, take a taxi or walk. Uber doesn't owe you anything.

    They call it "surge pricing" while many of us call it a "rip off". How does it differ from, say, a scalper charging a much inflated price for a ticket to a show? Surely a scalper could say argue the same that demand outstripped supply?

    "The cost for your journey will be $5/km times whatever factor our algorithm chooses" that seems fair to... no one.

    And boz is right when he says that Uber should not be constrained in any manner. In the same manner that grocery stores should be able to charge whatever they want to for staple products because they have never tried to gouge their customers and/or suppliers.

      That's a bullshit argument because the scalper buying tickets to sell, knowing the event would sell out, created an artificial shortage. If there are legitimately no Ubers in near the area then upping the rates to draw them there isn't an unreasonable way to manage the supply and demand. If the rate is too high for you can always opt for another mode of transit.
      In the case of trying to get out of the city during the siege, it was an automated response to demand and if they wanted to they could have left it at that.
      The thing is, if Uber prices are higher than a normal taxi then there is no real incentive to take an Uber unless you absolutely cannot find a taxi. This keeps their prices in check and means that gouging is far less likely (oh and they also don't randomly tack on money like some taxis).

        So if there's no other way to get a ticket to a show then you have to pay whatever inflated price the scalper wants (or not see the show) but if there are no taxis available then you have to pay whatever inflated price Uber wants (or walk) but the two business models are some how different? With one morally upright and the other contemptible.

          the thing is uber isnt creating an artificial shortage of taxis. You can hitch a ride from any other taxi service SINCE THEY ALL HAVE apps

          so the models are entirely different

          You never have to take Uber as your mode of transport but you do need a ticket for an event.
          You could call a friend, any one of the other taxi services, take public transport etc OR if you think the fare is reasonable for the convenience, choose to take an Uber.
          As long as Uber show the costs upfront before you book one then as an informed consumer the decision is up to you.

    Try getting a taxi in Melbourne. For the minor extra fee on short trips and knowing for sure the car is coming it's well worth it.

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