Uber made another serious misstep Sunday night when it briefly charged customers in Sydney a minimum fare of $100 to travel out of the Central Business District (CBD), where a gunman is still holding multiple hostages.
Mashable, which first reported on the brief surge pricing, learned of it after receiving screenshots from an executive in the CBD, which showed the company charging up to four times the normal rate (with a $100 minimum fee) due to “off the charts” demand.
Another user posted a screenshot showing that it would cost between $145 and $184 to travel a few blocks from the Sydney Airport. Others criticized Uber for charging higher prices during the hostage situation.
At first, Uber said the increased fares in the CBD were intended to “encourage more drivers” to come to the area and pick up passengers. After websites published stories about the surge pricing, Uber partially backtracked. It said that the surge would still be in place, but that rides out of the CBD would be free for passengers.
“We are all concerned with the events happening in Sydney,” Uber said in a blog post. “Uber Sydney will be providing free rides out of the CBD to help Sydneysiders get home safely.”
The company is pledging to refund customers who were charged a surge price and encouraged them to email [email protected].
Last July, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced an agreement with Uber to cap prices during natural disasters and emergencies. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said the company would cap prices during states of emergency for U.S. cities, but it’s unclear if Uber has a similar agreement with other countries.
The hostage situation in Sydney is still ongoing.