Ride-sharing service Uber Technologies Inc. has come under public fire for allegedly taking too long to turn off its "surge pricing" feature after a deadly terror attack in the heart of London.
“App users complained that they were being charged inflated prices on Saturday night after a van plowed into pedestrians on London Bridge and three knife-wielding men attacked revelers in a nearby nightlife district,” CNN Money reported.
Users of the app went on social media to blast the company for being slow to end the surge pricing and accused it of trying to profit from attacks, the New York Post reported.
“Big fan of @Uber but bitterly disappointed in profiting from a terrorist attack. ~£7 Knightsbridge to Victoria. Charging £40 #UberLondon,” said Simon Moores in a tweet from Saturday night, referring to the fare increase from about $8 to $45.
“Hey @Uber — you’re really going to surge price x2.1 during a terrorist attack in #London??? Lower than low. #londonbridge #emergency,” Amber Clemente wrote on the social media messaging site.
Uber uses an algorithm that raises prices when demand is high, but usually turns off the program during emergencies and disasters, the Post explained.
According to CNN, the first calls to emergency services were made at 10:08 p.m. Saturday. Uber said it had disabled surge pricing in the area around the attack by 10:50 p.m. and extended the suspension to include all of central London by 11:40 p.m.
Tom Elvidge, the general manager of Uber in London, said the company would not charge users for rides taken from areas near the attack, CNN Money reported.
He defended the company’s response.
“As soon as we heard about the incident we immediately suspended dynamic pricing all around the area of the attacks – and shortly afterward across the whole of central London – just as we did following the attacks in Manchester and Westminster,” he said.
Uber has faced a series of public-relations crises this year, Bloomberg reported.
The hashtag #DeleteUber trended on Twitter as users removed the application from their phones in protest of the company’s ties to U.S. President Donald Trump. Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick left Trump’s business advisory board in response. Then, after Bloomberg published a video of Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver, the embattled CEO said he would seek leadership help. The company is searching for a chief operating officer and fending off a lawsuit from Alphabet Inc. over driverless-car technology.
Uber's revenue increased to $3.4 billion in the first quarter and losses narrowed, even as hundreds of thousands of people deleted the company’s ride-hailing app from their phones.
The company also said its head of finance, Gautam Gupta, is leaving. Gupta, who has long served as de facto chief financial officer even though he never earned the title, helped oversee investor calls and run the finance team. But there had been persistent questions from employees and investors about whether he had the experience to lead Uber through an eventual initial public offering. Uber said it’s now searching for a true CFO who can woo Wall Street.
The San Francisco-based startup’s first-quarter loss was $708 million, shrinking from the $991 million loss in the previous period. The company’s ability to boost revenue and narrow losses even amid the customer protests reflects the global nature of its business -- most of the app deletions took place in the U.S.
Uber, valued at $69 billion, has raised more than $15 billion in funding in its seven-year history. Uber said it has $7.2 billion of cash on hand. In the fourth quarter, the company generated $6.9 billion in gross bookings and $2.9 billion in net revenue. For all of 2016, Uber’s global losses, excluding its China business, totaled $2.8 billion. The company lost at least another $1 billion in China last year.
(Newsmax wires services contributed to this report).
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