January 9, 2018 3:34 pm

Toronto commuters unhappy with Uber, Lyft rate hikes during power outage

Mon, Jan 8: Toronto residents took to social media Monday morning to voice their displeasure at sudden Uber price surging. It happened in the midst of a power outage that affected thousands. Shallima Maharaj reports.

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Commuters were shocked by a sudden increase in the cost of a trip with their favorite ride sharing app during the Monday morning power outage affecting Toronto’s east side.

The outage, which affected close to 20,000 customers and disrupted subway service on Line 2, drove peak pricing on Uber and Lyft up as much as five times the typical rate.

READ MORE: Power restored after major outage in east-end Toronto

Jake Williams, who regularly uses Uber to catch a ride back to Mississauga from downtown Toronto, was stunned to see the cost of his ride triple due to “dynamic pricing” that went into effect during the outage.

“Normally it costs me around $32 to $35 to go back home. This was going all the way up to $110,” Williams told Global News Toronto. “I was kinda forced to stay in Toronto and do nothing for three and a half hours waiting for the prices to become a little less ridiculous.”

Both of the popular ride sharing apps operating in Toronto have their own version of high demand pricing, in which rates jump when there are not enough drivers to cover trip requests.

In a statement, Uber acknowledges its dynamic pricing policy.

“During times of high demand, fares increase (via an algorythm) to help ensure a driver is always nearby, and that people can get rides when they need one.”

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Lyft institutes what it calls a Prime Time price when “there are more ride requests than available drivers,” and “adds a percentage to the ride subtotal (calculated prior to The Service Fee, taxes and airport fees, as applicable).”

“For example, if a ride costs $5 and there’s 150% Prime Time, the ride will cost $5 plus $7.50 for a total of $12.50 (and any other applicable fees).”

READ MORE: Uber surge pricing in effect as Toronto struggles with subway, streetcar delays

There’s not much customers can do when there’s a sudden change in conditions, however, Lyft does offer a price lock if users schedule a ride in advance. The service offers bookings of 30 minutes or up to seven days ahead of time, and locks in that rate “even if Prime Time is higher or lower at the actual pickup time.”

Meanwhile, apps like Cut the Surge, Surge, RideOut, and SurgeProtector can direct Uber riders to areas not affected by peak pricing.

— With files from Shallima Maharaj, David Shum, and Jessica Vomiero

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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