Uber customers taking legal action for expensive New Year's Eve rides
Uber users who were charged exorbitant amounts for a ride on New Year's Eve say they want the company to reimburse them or they will launch a class-action lawsuit.
Catherine Papillon was charged $97 on New Year's Eve for a ride that normally costs about $10, and which she believed would cost $36.
It was her first time using the Uber app to get a ride, and she said she was never informed of the near-tripling in the price displayed on her phone.
"It seems to us to be completely abusive," said her lawyer, Marc-Antoine Cloutier. A cease-and-desist letter has been sent to the transportation company.
Taxi drivers are forced by government to charge a fixed price per kilometre, but so far governments in Quebec have been turning a blind eye to Uber charging customers whatever it wishes -- be it cheaper or more expensive than taxi rates.
Uber frequently increases prices when demand increases, calling the practice "surge pricing," and says it's an effort to get more drivers on the road.
When the price for a ride increases, the app requires customers to type in the "multiplier" before confirming the trip.
On New Year's Eve in Montreal Uber was charging some customers much more than the normal rate, and many people complained they did not realize they were being charged hundreds of dollars for a ride.
"I saw the 8.9 amount on the app, but I did not realize I was being charged 8.9 times the amount the ride costs. I asked the driver and he told me I was being charged $36 dollars and a few cents," said Papillon.
Cloutier said the prices Uber advertises are misleading, considering customers can be charged hundreds of dollars more at any time.
"When we look at the difference between the bill and the promised price, the amount charged is not realistic," said Cloutier.
Uber representatives said in a statement customers are warned well in advance about the possiblitly of surge pricing and insist the app makes it clear that the customer will pay more.
Surge pricing is enacted in order to encourage more drivers to get on the road, increasing the supply of drivers and decreasing wait times.
Cloutier said he believes Uber's charges violate consumer protection laws, and plans to take Uber to court if necessary.
"Quebec has passed laws to reject this type of abusive pricing by companies," said Cloutier.
"Even if there was consent -- which we don't believe there was in this case... in Quebec law we can force companies to reduce the amount charged to a reasonable amount," said Cloutier.
Julien-David Pelletier, the director of Juripop, agreed.
"One cannot consent in the context of an adhesion contract to its own lesion, to its own abuse, so those are our arguments and we hope that Uber will hear them," said Pelletier.
Uber has partially reimbursed some customers who complained about high charges, but Cloutier said the reductions are still paltry compared to the actual cost of a ride.
"Uber must reimburse all its customers who were illegally charged on Dec. 31, 2015," he said.