Uber Criticized for Surge Pricing During London Terror Attack

The company didn’t deactivate surge pricing quickly enough for some in the wake of Saturday’s terror attack.

byStephen Edelstein|
Uber Criticized for Surge Pricing During London Terror Attack

In yet another public-relations crisis for the embattled ride-sharing company, Uber is being criticized for not deactivating surge pricing quickly enough following deadly terror attacks Saturday in London. The company claims it reacted as quickly as it could, and will refund passengers caught up in the attacks.

Saturday night, a van plowed into pedestrians on London Bridge, and multiple stabbings occurred in a nearby area, injuring 48 people and killing at least seven. But Uber did not immediately disable surge pricing, affecting people fleeing the attacks and leading to a backlash on social media, according to CNN.

"As soon as we heard about the incident we immediately suspended dynamic pricing all around the areas of the attacks—and shortly afterwards across the whole of central London—just as we did following the attacks in Manchester and Westminster," Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber in London, said in a statement.

"We are also ensuring all rides from around the affected area were free of charge," Elvidge said. Uber did the same after the terror attacks in Manchester and Westminster.

On Saturday, the first calls to emergency services after the attacks were made at 10:08 p.m., according to CNN. Uber suspended surge pricing in the area where the attacks occurred at 10:50 p.m., and extended the provision to all of central London at 11:40 p.m.

Uber's surge pricing is automatically triggered by an increase in demand in a given area, including crowds of people trying to escape the scene of terror attacks. Surge pricing must be deactivated manually, hence the delayed response experienced by users in London. Uber's default is to let the software automatically determine prices, since it can respond more quickly to changes in demand.

The London incident is yet another PR black mark for Uber. The company has experienced scandal after scandal this year, most recently including protests by Spanish taxi drivers last week, and allegations that it both overcharged New York passengers and underpaid drivers. The company also fired one of its top self-driving car engineers amid an ongoing legal battle with Waymo.