Edmonton man receives partial refund for $1,100 Uber bill

An Edmonton man who was charged more than $1,100 for an Uber ride on New Year’s Eve has been refunded half his bill.

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Matthew Lindsey used the ride-sharing app after celebrating a wedding Thursday night with a group of friends. His driver made three separate stops to drop passengers off, travelling 63 kilometres over 60 minutes in total.

Lindsay said had taken comparable trips before.

“We use Uber all the time, so it was the first choice for me,” he told CTV Edmonton. “I’ve actually taken a similar route at peak time before and it cost me about $77.”

His New Year’s trip cost a base fare of $125 – but the 8.9 “surge” multiplier caused the price to balloon to $1,114.71.

Uber’s “surge” pricing is a supply-and-demand approach that kicks in during the company’s busiest hours. When a high number of people request rides, the availability of Uber drivers becomes limited.

“As a result, prices increase to encourage more drivers to become available,” Uber’s website explains.

Before hailing a ride, users are shown the “surge” multiplier, explaining their drive will cost significantly more than usual due to the high demand. They’re also given the option to be notified when “surge” prices end and the fare returns to normal.

If riders choose to pay extra, they’re also forced to type in the exact multiplier they’re agreeing to pay as a sign of acknowledgment.

After his story aired on CTV Edmonton Saturday, Lindsay said Uber called him and offered to refund half his fare.

Others, too, were incensed by Uber bills totalling hundreds of dollars. Two Montreal passengers were charged $625 for a 40-kilometre trek.

“We might have well just rented a room or something at that point,” passenger Veronica Iafrancesco told CTV Montreal.

“I feel like I was robbed,” said Cassandra Zakaib, another Montreal rider who was charged $320 on New Year’s Eve.

Uber did, however, attempt to warn users in advance that New Year’s Eve prices would be higher than usual.

“To avoid the highest fares, catch a ride just after midnight or have your app notify you when Surge Pricing drops,” one email, sent by Uber Thursday morning, said. It also recommended using their price estimating tool before riding and splitting the fare with friends.

Still, users like Lindsay are unhappy it’s even possible to spend $1,000 on a car ride.

“They just haven't acknowledged the fact that this is an unfathomable price. It’s a ridiculous, outrageous price.”



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