Do angry Uber users have a case against 'surge pricing'?

A couple of Montreal-area women are so upset about the cost of New Year’s Uber rides that they say they are considering legal action.

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CTV Edmonton reported Sunday on Matthew Lindsey’s $1,115 charge for a 60-minute ride that covered 63 kilometres. It was the result of a “surge pricing” multiplier of 8.9 times was added to his $125 base fare. (The company has since refunded half of the money.)

Lindsay wasn’t the only one shocked by an Uber charge after a New Year’s celebration.

Catherine Pap wrote on Facebook that her first Uber ride, taken on Jan. 1, cost $97. That was about three times what she expected to pay, and she’s looking for other people who might want to join a possible class action lawsuit.

Cassandra Zakaib said she likes the idea of going after the company. Her New Year’s Day ride in Montreal cost $320, minus a 25 per cent refund she got after complaining.

“I really think that, together, this public outcry should be heard,” Zakaib said.

Veronica Iafrancesco, who said she and a fellow passenger were charged $625 for a 40-kilometre cab ride in Montreal, was also upset by her bill. “We might have well just rented a room or something,” she said.

Although Uber rides often cost less than taxi trips, the company’s “surge” pricing can lead to big bills when drivers are busy.

Surge pricing kicks in when the number of available cars falls below a certain threshold. Once the surge starts, the app warns users that the normal rate will be multiplied by a certain amount.

Users who don’t accept the surge pricing can opt to be notified when “surge” prices end and the fares return to normal.

Not only are users warned in the app, but the company sent out an email on New Year’s Eve reminding them that 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,” the email said.

Uber issued a statement defending its surge pricing, adding it helps ensure “you can always push a button and get a ride within minutes -- even on the busiest night of the year.”

Surge pricing also led to some eye-popping bills over Halloween weekend in Toronto, when four women who were driven from a downtown nightclub to a Toronto suburb faced a $446 charge.

With a report from CTV Montreal



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