Uber users voice issues with surge pricing policy

Paige Leskin, City Editor

Uber users have voiced their frustration with the rideshare company in the past year, criticizing its policy of the temporary charge increase called “surge pricing.”

The Better Business Bureau, which ranks businesses to help buyers and sellers make better decisions, gave Uber an “F” grade on Oct. 9. An “F” is the lowest grade the organization gives out.

The ranking is partially based on input from customers, who have submitted more than 100 complaints to Uber over the last year through the BBB site. The majority of the complaints focused on issues either with Uber’s billing and collection or with its product and service.

“Consumer complaints allege misunderstanding Uber Technologies’ pricing, being misinformed about the overall cost of the services rendered,” BBB’s site reads. “Some consumers claim that they were told the final cost of the transportation service the company provided … only to be subsequently charged a substantially larger amount.”

Many complaints addressed problems with “surge pricing,” a short-term rise in charges that Uber implements at times of high demand. When users tried to contact Uber’s customer service to fix their issues, they found it difficult to reach representatives and find resolutions, according to BBB’s site.

Uber, Lyft and similar commercial rideshare services have been at the center of Illinois state politics in 2014. Legislation passed through the state’s General Assembly in the first half of the year that would impose statewide regulations, requiring drivers to obtain background checks and many types of insurance.

Nicknamed the “Uber bill,” Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed the rideshare restrictions in August, stating his veto would help create jobs and protect consumers in Illinois. Bruce Rauner, Quinn’s challenger in the gubernatorial election on Nov. 4, praised the governor for doing “the right thing” in vetoing the bill.

Uber runs on the goal of ensuring that customers receive reliable rides whenever and wherever they are, Uber spokeswoman Lauren Altmin said. Surge pricing helps align the company’s supply and demand, she said.

“During times of peak demand – when there are not enough drivers on the system – fares increase so as to incentivize more drivers to come onto the platform,” Altmin said in an email to The Daily. “Uber’s direct channel for two-way feedback is regularly reviewed and acted on to ensure a high-quality experience. The fact is that consumers in 220 cities around the world have made their opinion known by taking millions of rides with Uber.”

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Twitter: @paigeleskin