Riders complain after huge increases in Uber prices during peak ACL times
KVUE — Uber drivers are preparing for the second weekend of a partnership with Austin City Limits Music Festival. The transportation network company has released $30 vouchers for free rides using the promo code "ACLFest."
However, several people who used the promotional code to get a ride with Uber last weekend say they were charged way more than they expected. One of those customers is Beatriz Zilveti's 17-year-old niece. She used the app to get a ride home with Uber on Friday night after ACL and only paid $11 after the free ride coupon. Then on Saturday night, Zilveti says her niece tried to get a ride home with Uber again and had difficulties opening the app.
"She tried to put her request in, and it wasn't working, so a car pulled up to them and said, 'Are you trying to get Uber? We're having a lot of trouble with the app, so I can provide you the service,'" Zilveti said.
According to Zilveti's niece, the driver offered to help by filling in the app himself. "He said, 'Give me your phone, and I can do it for you,'" said Zilveti. She says the ride went well, but the next morning she saw the receipt for the ride and it was nearly $200 even after the ACL Uber coupon discount.
It's called price surging: Part of Uber's business model to incentivize drivers during peak demand times.
Uber spokesperson Chris Nakutis says Saturday night in Austin, prices peaked at more than 500 percent. "Say, when the Eminem concert gets out at ACL and demand spikes, the algorithms recognize that," Nakutis said.
Nakutis tells KVUE that the customer is always alerted when there's a price surge. "A little lightning bolt shows up next to the price. When you request it tells you exactly how much it's going to be," Nakutis said. He also says when the price surges to more than 1.75 times the normal rate, you will be notified and have to fill in a page acknowledging the higher rate.
"You actually have to manually confirm and say, 'I know this is 2.5 times,' and type in 2.5," said Nakutis. Zilveti's niece claims the driver accepted the surcharge without tell her when he took her phone. She wrote an email to Uber on Monday explaining what happened and eventually they credited her back $60 of the $200 Uber ride.
Several Austin City Council Members, including Kathie Tovo and Mike Martinez, are trying to pass an amendment to cap this kind of surge pricing.
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