Uber, the smartphone taxi booking app, which used surge pricing to quadruple fares at the height of the Sydney siege last week, before a backlash saw the company retreat and offer free rides home instead, has gone one step further today and apologised and offered refunds.
In an email to customers today, Uber Sydney general manager David Rohrsheim said the company was “truly sorry for any concern that our process may have added”.
He said their aim was to get people out of the city quickly, but that was poorly communicated, “leading to a lot of misunderstanding about our motivations”.
He blamed the surge pricing on an automatic algorithm that “kicks in” when demand outstrips the supply of cars.
“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,” he said.
At the time, it meant a trip in an Uber Black hire car from the CBD to Sydney airport would have cost around $150, with a minimum fee of $100.
“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,” Rohrsheim said.
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