Uber X drivers busted manipulating booking app to forcing up cost of fares

David Nankervis, The Advertiser

February 14, 2017 8:00pm

Subscriber only

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UBER X drivers are manipulating the ridesharing service’s booking app to increase the cost of fares during periods of high demand.

The company says it is investigating drivers who cancel bookings just minutes before picking up passengers to force them to re-book at fares twice the price originally quoted.

Just weeks before a swag of major events across Adelaide intensify demand for taxi and ridesharing services, Uber says it wants victims of the price-gouging to dob in drivers.

A spokesman for the booking app service — which is operating illegally in SA — said it had not received “many’’ complaints about the practice but vowed that such incidents could have serious consequences for the driver.

“Our driver deactivation policy makes it clear we can remove a driver’s access to the app for fraudulent activity, which includes accepting trip requests without the intention to complete them,’’ the said.

One passenger has been caught out twice by such practices this year — once after the Australia Day international cricket match at Adelaide Oval and the other following a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Entertainment Centre on January 30.

Passenger Chris Thompson said that ten minutes after making a booking from the Adelaide Oval, his fare was cancelled, forcing him to re-book at a price that was double the original rate.

And while walking to his ride after the Springsteen concert, Mr Thompson had his booking cancelled and again saw the re-booked fare had doubled.

Uber said “surge pricing’’ allowed drivers to charge higher rates during peak demand periods.

However, in reply to Mr Thompson’s complaint, it said that a “small minority’’ of drivers sought to cancel bookings before price surging fares kick in.

The spokesman said “this is strongly condemned and is not the way Uber is intended to work’’ because such price gouging “causes a negative experience’’ for passengers.

“We are working to proactively identify driver-partners that might be engaging in this kind of behaviour to be able to take actions that ensure it is not repeated’’.

Similar rorting of the booking system has also been reported in Melbourne.

Mr Thompson has contacted the national consumer watchdog ACCC about his recent experiences and is waiting for a reply.

While he said he was happy using Uber X, Mr Thompson wanted to warn other passengers of his experiences.

“I still use Uber as it is fantastic, it’s just these drivers with surcharges that is causing an issue,’’ he said.

“(Uber) need to be made accountable for these actions as they are taking advantage of Adelaide people.’’

Taxi council SA president Jim Triantafyllou condemned price surging as showing “Uber for what it is — and that is a money-hungry multinational that sends profits offshore”.

“As we head into the ‘Mad March’ period, taxi passengers can be assured they won’t be hit with any nasty surcharges at the end of trip,’’ he said.

“Our tariffs are all Government-regulated, as opposed to Uber, which continues to operate illegally and gouges from passengers when transport is needed most.”

 

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