ALEKS DEVIC, Herald Sun
February 5, 2017 10:47pm
AN underground network of Uber drivers is using messenger app WhatsApp to trigger “surge pricing”, inflicting higher fares on passengers.
Surge pricing occurs when the price of rides goes up in areas where the demand for cars exceeds available drivers.
Some drivers are reportedly cancelling rides on the way to pick up passengers, so as to score a more lucrative fare.
Sources have told the Herald Sun that a man dubbed the “Godfather of Uber surge” is studying the road network and alerting Uber drivers to areas where the next surge in prices is going to occur.
Using a secret, invitation-only group on WhatsApp — a phone messaging app allowing individuals and groups to text, chat, and share photos and videos — selected drivers agree to log out of the Uber app so that their cars disappear off the grid of available rides.
This then causes Uber to increase its normal prices so as to cope with the current demand and to encourage drivers back on the road.
Surge pricing has been a longstanding gripe among Uber passengers. To improve transparency, the company updated its app and advises clients of the estimated fare.
Uber spokesman Mike Scott said surge pricing kept rides reliable and waiting times low, but he said those drivers who were manipulating the system faced being booted from Uber. He said: “We have multi-layered systems in place to detect drivers who may be attempting to game the system and closely monitor driver cancellation rates.
“It’s made clear in our driver deactivation policy that we can remove a driver’s access to the app for fraudulent activity — which includes deliberately accepting trip requests without the intention to complete, or for excessive cancellations.”
One Uber driver said he waited for surge pricing in a bid to make more money.
“We all play the Uber surge game,” the driver said.
“The drivers log off and within minutes the surge price kicks in.
“Without the surge, you don’t make any money.”
Another Uber driver said that those belonging to the WhatsApp group were operating as a “big syndicate”.
“The group are manipulating surges,” he said.
“That’s why these days, the surges don’t last as long as they did before,” the driver said.