Yesterday the San Francisco-based online car service Uber decided to swing around and offer free rides out of downtown Sydney after a powerful initial public backlash over fare increases.
The initial price increases appeared as a hostage drama was unfolding in a city café, where a person held numerous people at gunpoint – the crisis was resolved in the mean time, unfortunately with lives lost. The US car-sharing company initially had its fares within its smartphone booking app climb to no less than A$100 ($82, the minimum fee) for the pickups that were designated in the vicinity of the siege. That would be around four times more than prices usually asked before the hostage situation started. The fare increase was also a direct result of the company’s controversial automatic price increases.
The city’s public transport system was strained as several businesses, including banks, in the vicinity of the siege decided to send home the employees and evacuate the buildings for reasons of safety. When initially asked about the price surge, Uber replied via one official Twitter account it was increasing fares to “encourage more drivers to come online and pick up passengers in the area”. The subsequent public protests, which mounted rapidly, led the service rethink its decision and opted to offer the rides out of the district for free.