Uber refunds Edmonton man half of his $1,100 NYE bill
An Edmonton man who was charged $1,100 for a 60-minute Uber ride from southeast Edmonton to St. Albert has been refunded half of his bill.
Matthew Lindsay said Uber called him shortly after his story aired on CTV Edmonton on Saturday and was told that he would receive a refund for half the fare.
“We went back-and-forth and we settled on a half split of the fare, which I find is reasonable,” said Lindsay. “I made a mistake. They made a mistake. They need to be responsible for that.”
Lindsay and a group of friends were celebrating a wedding at the Southwood Community League in Mill Woods on New Year’s Eve.
The driver headed to Summerside first to drop off friends. Lindsay was then dropped off in the Castle Downs neighbourhood, before the Uber driver continued on to drop off two more people in St. Albert.
Lindsay said didn’t realize how much had been charged to his account until after he had been dropped off.
Uber often multiplies rates when demand jumps during peak times or when fewer Uber drivers are on the road.
The app includes a button that alerts users when a surge has ended and prices are back to normal.
In Lindsay’s case, the fare normally would have cost $125, but the surged pricing pushed it 8.9 times higher to a total of $1,114.
“Our goal is to make sure you can always push a button and get a ride within minutes, even on the busiest night of the year, and surge pricing helps ensure that choice is always available,” said an Uber Canada spokesperson in an emailed statement.
City Councillor Andrew Knack supports allowing ride-sharing apps to operate in Edmonton with proper regulation.
“You think about taxis, people were waiting two or three hours that night. They were guaranteed to pay that lower rate but they had to wait a long time,” said Knack. “So Uber, and companies like Uber, just provide a different choice. If you don’t want to wait, there’s an option but you have to pay quite a bit more.”
Surged prices have drawn criticism for Uber in the past. Uber’s rates quadrupled in Sydney, Australia during an armed hostage attack in 2014, leading to angry outcry on social media.
Uber responded on Twitter by saying that the surge was automated and that the company would refund riders who used the service as the crisis unfolded.
Lindsay said he still believes Uber provides a great service for Edmonton and another option for consumers.
“They’re a great product,” said Lindsay. “But for these very particular, specific scenarios, there needs to be a cap or regulation of some sort to prevent being taken advantage of in a vulnerable state.”
With files from CTV’s Kelsey Nichols and CTV's Breanna Karstens-Smith