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Uber Issues Damage Control After Smog Crisis Surge Pricing Scandal

Could it mean the end of higher rideshare prices during heavy demand hours?

When the smog got bad, the Ubers got expensive, Photo: Notimex/Nicolás Tavira
By The News Whatsapp Twitter Facebook Share
1 year ago

Uber Mexico is attempting to make amends after customer uproar over surge pricing during recent high pollution days. The company may be changing its policy on raising rates when user demand is high.

Mexico City social media users were not happy when, in the middle of a period of dramatically heightened ozone levels, Uber Mexico surge pricing policies raised carshare rates up to 10 times higher. On high pollution days, many cars are ordered off the road, and demand was high for Uber drivers — 64 percent higher, said the company, at a time when 40 percent of its drivers were forced to stay at home due to the city’s Hoy No Circula traffic restriction program, or risk being fined.

Twitter was rife with complaints over rates that seemed ludicrously high. “Going by Uber on the day you can’t drive is the same as the fine,” Twitter user Ileana Rodríguez posted.

60405095. México, 5 Abr 2016 (Notimex- Nicolás Tavira).- Hoy entró en vigor la modificación al programa "Hoy No Circula", la cual consiste en que también dejen de circular los autos con engomado cero y doble cero un día a la semana y un sábado al mes, con esta medida se pretende bajar las emisiones de Co2 y así proteger la salud de los ciudadanos. NOTIMEX/FOTO/NICOLÁS TAVIRA/NTA/ENV/

With 40 percent of cars ordered off the road during Hoy No Circula traffic restriction days, Uber saw huge surges in customer demand. Photo: Notimex/Nicolás Tavira

Users complained that they relied on the rideshare service more when their cars were ordered to stay in the garage by the city’s Hoy No Circula traffic restriction program, which uses a system of colored stickers on license plates to determine which drivers have to stay off the road and when.

The company concurred that it had made an error. “We’re in this together,” started the press release that also included details on upcoming user refunds.

According to Uber’s press release, those who booked Uber trips during the Hoy No Circula traffic restriction program days at a rate higher than 4.9 times normal prices will be elegible for a complete refund of their trip. People who took cars at rates over 3.5X more than normal prices will get two free future trips (up to 150 pesos per trip).

Clues that the Hoy No Circula scandal may have affected the company’s policies on pricing during environmental works came from Mexico City mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera’s Twitter account. “.@GobCDMX and @Uber_MEX agree to eliminate surge pricing. It will refund the money to those affected during Hoy No Circula #mm”

It was unclear if Mancera’s post meant that Uber Mexico is leaving surge pricing for good, or if it’s inappropriateness during the last Hoy No Circula specifically was found to be in error.

Among those who used Uber during Hoy No Circula was football player Alex Diaz Lineaga, who posted on Twitter about his indignation over a trip from Satélite to Coapa that cost 1,400 pesos. Diaz Lineaga qualified this “a theft”.

When Uber first began to offer its services in Mexico City it was readily accepted by users. In August 2015, despite protests from taxi drivers, local authorities permitted the company to operate free of many regulations governing other forms of transportation.


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