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Thursday 9 March 2023

Is Uber failing the test of time?

UPDATED with Uber quotes

Remember when everyone thought Uber was a great idea?

It doesn't seem so long ago, does it?

A cheaper option to black cabs, driven by people trying to make an extra buck on the side, with fares that seemed fair.

Until they didn't.

Apps that would deliver a driver to you in minutes? 

Until they didn't.   

And then some of the drivers turned out to be just as obnoxious as some of the black cab drivers.

Whose navigation skills were severely limited, and who followed their SatNav regardless.

Oh and how fares surged at peak times, sometimes making Uber much more expensive than black cabs.

And the difficulty in tracking down an Uber driver if you had an issue.  

I am no lover of the cab industry - in London I used to have a regular mini cab driver I used (hello Maurice!) rather than standard cabs.

I was never taken in by the Uber hype.

You have to wonder what the Uber fans have to say about yesterday's debacle in Sydney, where the train system went out and The New Daily reported an Uber trip that was normally about $39 surged to $500.

NSW Transport Minister David Elliott slammed Uber for trying to profit from an unfortunate situation.

“I’m absolutely disgusted that Uber have decided to take advantage of an unfortunate situation in Sydney,” he said.

“I have had consistent reassurances from Uber this wouldn’t occur.”

Uber’s website says that there are times when customer demand outweighs the number of drivers they have logged on at that time, with an increase in price helping “ensure that those who need a ride can get one”.

Uber did, to its credit, offer refunds to those it had gouged. And its very slick PR team quickly sent GOTR a statement, which is repeated below.

"In the past we have been alerted by Transport for NSW when there were Sydney-wide transport issues, however, in this instance we were not informed of the complete outage on the NSW train network until well after it began," a spokesman said. 

"As soon as our team became aware of the train disruption, we immediately lowered and capped surge to still incentivise driver-partners who were helping Sydneysiders get home, while making rides more affordable for those stranded.

"Surge pricing happens in real time when demand for rides exceeds the number of driver-partners online and works to attract more drivers to the area. In this case, we proactively reduced and capped that surge and communicated with driver-partners to let them know about the increased rider demand and encourage them to come online and help provide a ride to those who needed one. This approach was communicated to Transport for NSW and the Minister’s office.

"Any rider that was charged an additional amount above that surge cap, for the full duration of the outage, will be auto refunded within the next 48 hours.”

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