The transport app company Uber has apologised for dramatically raising its prices during last week’s Sydney siege, when passengers were asked to pay up to four times the usual rate for a lift out of the central business district.
Parts of Sydney were in lockdown after Man Haron Monis took hostages in the Lindt cafe in Martin Place on 15 December. The 16-hour siege culminated in the death of Monis and two hostages, Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson.
“The events of last week were upsetting for the whole community and we are truly sorry for any concern that our process may have added,” Uber said on Wednesday morning.
“Our priority was to help 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.”
Uber users had heavily criticised the company for increasing the minimum fare to $100 while the siege was unfolding, leading the company to backtrack and offer free rides instead.
The company said it now regretted jacking up the prices in the middle of a crisis. “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,” Uber’s statement said.
“We didn’t stop surge pricing immediately. This was the wrong decision. We quickly reversed course and offered 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’s US parent company has pledged to cap prices during crises and disasters, and the Australian subsidiary said it was working on standardising “a global policy to ensure we’re serving communities” effectively.
This article was written by Shalailah Medhora, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 24th December 2014 02.00 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010