Belfast Telegraph

Uber's £106 for 20 mile taxi trip in Northern Ireland slammed

By Rachel Martin

Angry passengers have complained about online taxi firm Uber due to its spike in fares during peak demand periods.

One man said he was charged £70 to go to Carrickfergus from Belfast and a woman was charged an extra £80 on a journey to Whitehead from the city - a fare that would normally cost her just £40.

Another woman from Newtownards showed a receipt totalling £106.43 for her 20-mile journey - working out at a hefty £5.32 a mile.

By comparison, Belfast firm Value Cabs said it could take a fare to Dublin Airport for £140.

Uber's 'surge' policy means some passengers have said they have been charged as much as eight times a normal taxi fare.

Several passengers have said they were not aware of the cost of their journey until after they left the vehicle.

Because a credit card is needed to set up an Uber account, the money is automatically debited from users' accounts. Carnmoney woman Suzanne Lewis said she was disgusted after a taxi she was sharing with friends to Whitehead came to £115. Ms Lewis said she offered the last person on the route £10, thinking that would cover her share of the bill, only to find on Monday that the fare had in fact spiralled to well over £100.

The firm's pricing policy means that when demand is high or there are fewer cars on the road, prices go up and a 'surge' is applied.

However, it has also been reported that the firm's software increases its prices if the user's phone battery is running low.

The firm avoids regulated taxi fares by making use of Class C licences, typically used for chauffeur services, weddings and funerals.

"I'm so angry," said Ms Lewis. "I was in town for my work's summer barbecue and after a great night I shared a taxi with three friends home.

"We were having difficulty getting a taxi. One of my friends said he had the Uber app, so we thought we would give it a try. It said a car was eight minutes away and we thought 'happy days'.

"On Monday I asked my friend how much it ended up costing and he said he hadn't checked, so he opened the app. His face went white - £115 had been taken out of his account."

Ms Lewis took to Facebook to vent her frustration, saying she would never have used the service if she had known what it would cost. Her post was shared more than 300 times, with hundreds offering support.

"There seem to be quite a lot of people who have been stung by it," she said. "I was very surprised by the response my post got online. My eldest daughter has been using it happily abroad, but we really had no idea what it would come to. I feel disgusted and would warn my friends about what happened to us, because it's very easily missed."

A spokesman for Uber said: "Uber uses dynamic pricing to ensure that people can always book a car when they need it. The fare increases only in response to real-time demand when there are not enough available cars in the area.

"Because drivers on the app work independently, higher fares incentivise more drivers to go online and drive in the area, providing more cars for users of the app. We make the pricing very clear to riders in the app before confirming the booking."

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