Uber Toronto Activates Surge Pricing During Storm, Triggering a Bad PR Storm of Its Own [Updated]

Yesterday evening, a sudden and powerful rainstorm slammed the city of Toronto. Four inches of rain poured down on the city in almost an instant, causing power losses, submerging cars, and flooding streets.

US-based Taxi service Uber, which first launched in Canada in Toronto in March 2012, activated surge pricing at this time. The company spiked its rates during a natural disaster, knowing its customers were desperate. And it’s not the first time Uber has activated surge pricing. One Uber customer last year paid more than $200 for a seven mile ride.

Uber’s rate nearly doubled (1.75 times) with a $26 minimum fare. “Demand is off the charts,” read Uber’s app. “Rates have increased to get more Ubers on the road.”

But perhaps even worse than that was the fact that Uber denied it raised prices, even though evidence of surging was littered all over social media sites like Twitter.

Compare this with competitor Hailo, who maintained its prices and even went out of its way to ensure the safety and convenience of Torontonians during the storm.

“When a really bad storm hits a city, people are stranded and very upset, and you provide transportation services to the citizens of said city, you should not dramatically raise your prices at that exact moment,” says Aron Solomon, who closely watched this fiasco unfold. You can read his excellent recount of Uber’s behaviour during the Toronto storm on his blog.

Here’s a screenshot of the app taken by Kerry Morrison, the CEO of Endloop Mobile.

Uber Toronto says that it surges to “incentivize our driver partners [who are not Uber employees] to help with increased demand,” and adds that its taxi product was regularly priced all evening.


Photo: CityNews Toronto