Uber is charging users more if they have low phone battery, investigation claims
- Two Uber riders planned to take identical trips at the same time across Brussels
- A taxi rider with low battery was allegedly offered a rate 5 per cent higher
- Uber denies that its taxi fees are impacted by battery level, it has been reported
Uber has come under fire amid allegations that users are charged higher fees when their phone battery is running low.
Taxi riders were offered different costs for riding with Uber despite taking identical trips across Brussels, a damning investigation has claimed.
Belgian newspaper Dernière Heure reported that the two passengers had 12 per cent and 84 per cent battery levels during the small study.
The lower battery phone was allegedly offered a €17.56 rate (£15.55) to travel from an undisclosed office to the more central Tour & Taxis, while the other was charged €16.60 (£14.70).
Although Uber’s fees are affected by numerous factors such as time of day as well as distance, these taxis were ordered at the same time.
Uber denies that its taxi fees are impacted by battery level, it has been reported
Dernère Heure’s allegations
Phone with 84 per cent battery
Trip: From an undisclosed office in Brussels, Belgium to Tour & Taxis in the city centre.
UberX fee: €16.60 (£14.70)
Uber Comfort fee: €20.19 (£17.88)
Van fee: €24.50 (£21.69)
Phone with 12 per cent battery
Trip: From an undisclosed office in Brussels, Belgium to Tour & Taxis in the city centre (identical journey).
UberX fee: €17.56 (£15.55)
Uber Comfort fee: €21.32 (£18.88)
Uber Black fee: €25.38 (£22.47)
Both were also said to be UberX options, but Uber Comfort, Van and Black options saw different fees offered too.
The higher-battery phone was allegedly offered €20.19 (£17.88) for Uber Comfort, while the other was offered a trip costing over 5 per cent more at €21.32 (£18.88).
Meanwhile, the lower battery phone was offered €25.38 (£22.47) for a luxury Uber Black, while the other was offered €24.50 for a van (£21.69).
When approached, Uber denied that its ride costs were calculated based on the battery level of a phone.
They instead told the publication that fees are affected by demand and ‘occupancy in an area’.
‘During busy periods, when there are many requests for rides and few drivers available in a certain geographical area, this can have an impact on the price of the ride. In all cases, the user is informed of the price of the ride before he confirms his request,’ Uber told Dernière Heure.
The taxi giant’s charge-issuing tactics are often based on a process known as surge pricing, which is catalysed by special events, bad weather and rush hours.
During a period of unusually high demand, Uber informs affected users about these price hikes.
Those with urgent journeys may order a taxi anyway, while others may choose to wait until the price drops again.
This surge charge not only varies between cities and countries, but can rapidly change in real time.
A taxi rider with low battery was allegedly offered a rate 5 per cent higher than the user who had a battery charge of 84 per cent when Dernière Heure conducted its study
Tolls, airport parking charges and other costs may be piled on too.
‘Surge pricing is also specific to different areas in a city, so some neighborhoods may have surge pricing at the same time that other neighborhoods do not,’ Uber’s website reads.
‘If surge pricing applies in your city when demand increases in a specific area, that neighbourhood will change colour in the app. The coloured areas of the map will range from light orange to dark red.
‘Light orange areas represent smaller earning opportunities from surge, while dark red areas indicate larger ones.’
MailOnline has also approached Uber for comment.
Dernière Heure’s allegations come just months after the taxi giant was forced to raise its prices in the US during the Christmas season.
This was sparked by the crippling effects of inflation in addition to a huge driver shortage during the pandemic’s aftermath.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi previously told the Chicago Tribune: ‘Inflation is driving up prices, but a bigger factor is a shortage of Uber drivers.’
‘The number of drivers has been growing, which is improving estimated arrival times and lowering surge prices and inflation is encouraging more people to begin driving for Uber, as they seek ways to earn extra cash for items like groceries,’ he explained.