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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Uber Denies Rumors of Surge Pricing, Service Shutdown During Paris Terrorist Attacks

Posted By on Sat, Nov 14, 2015 at 11:58 AM

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San Francisco-based ride hail company Uber is denying wide-spread rumors that it engaged in surge pricing and suspended service during yesterday's terrorist attacks in Paris, France

In the aftermath of the attacks, reports spread on Twitter that the company had instituted surge pricing before shutting the service entirely. Some of these reports were picked up by the mainstream press, which juxtaposed the startup's behavior in a crisis with that of traditional Parisian taxi drivers, who had reportedly turned off their meters and were driving people to safety for free. 

During a hostage situation in Sydney, Australia in 2014, Uber did activate surge pricing, charging fleeing civilians four times the usual rate. After widespread condemnation, the company apologized

But according to the company, Uber has learned its lesson and did not engage in surge pricing yesterday in Paris. The company also says that reports that it suspended service were false — a widely shared message on the app's interface advised users of the emergency and warned that service would be slow because all cars were in use — not that the system was shut down. 

In a statement, a company spokesperson said, "Our hearts go out to everyone in France after these horrific terrorist attacks."

While it's good news that the ride-hail app isn't using public emergencies to squeeze profits, the crisis does illustrate one key difference between street-hail taxis and Uber cars. Reports of Parisian taxis turning off their meters and taking people home for free are widespread. That kind of public service in a crisis was not an option to Uber drivers, who cannot use the app to find stranded people during the crisis and choose not to charge them. Uber drivers are also barred from street-hails — i.e. picking people up off the street without using the app. 

So yes, Uber, which has become an undeniable part of the world's transit systems, is not as evil as you may have suspected. But it doesn't possess the infrastructure to allow individual drivers to act out of altruism. Sounds like it's time for an update. 
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About The Author

Julia Carrie Wong

Julia Carrie Wong's work has appeared in numerous local and national titles including 48hills, Salon, In These Times, The Nation, and The New Yorker.

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