Uber took some heat in Australia, and the international press, on Monday when the app started commanding quadruple-rate surge pricing in Sydney's central business district during what would become a 16-hour hostage crisis at a café in the area. In response, the company ultimately stopped the surge pricing and told all users in the area that the cost of their rides would be refunded, but only after a brief uproar on social media, as the New York Times reports.
As the Washington Post notes, the 4x surge pricing meant that Uber customers trying to flee the area were paying minimum fares of $100 (or $82 US dollars) during the first hours of the crisis. As Mashable reports, the company appeared to defend its pricing as purely algorithmic, only reversing its stance after a PR firestorm started erupting. Also, there was a tone-deafness to the tweet below, in which Uber Sydney made it sound like they were actually purposefully raising prices "in order to encourage more drivers to come online."
We are all concerned with events in CBD. Fares have increased to encourage more drivers to come online & pick up passengers in the area.— Uber Sydney (@Uber_Sydney) December 15, 2014
Uber has already made some promises to prevent such price-gouging from happening during emergencies, at least in U.S. cities though during last week's major rainstorm in San Francisco the company was charging 3.8x surge rates at one point. They've not yet made any such agreements in international locales.
And in further bad news for Uber, internationally, the French government is moving to ban the UberX equivalent in that country, called UberPop, starting January 1. Taxi drivers in Paris have previously staged large protests against the ride-sharing service, and much as they are in the U.S., Uber is facing legal trouble in multiple European cities over the licensing, or lack thereof, of its citizen drivers.