De Blasio to Uber: Surge Pricing During the Blizzard Is Illegal

The New York City mayor promised to crack down on “for-hire vehicles” that raise their prices during the coming winter storm.

In this photo illustration, a woman uses the Uber app on an Samsung smartphone on September 2, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. Uber, an app that allows passenger to buy rides from drivers who do not have taxi permits, has had its UberPop freelance driver service banned in Germany after a complaint by Taxi Deutschland, a trade association of taxi drivers in the country. The company, which operates in 42 countries over 200 cities worldwide, plans to both appeal the decision made by a court in Frankfurt as well as, at the risk of heavy fines, continue its services in Germany until a final decision has been made on the matter.
National Journal
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Dustin Volz
Jan. 26, 2015, 8:55 a.m.

New York City May­or Bill de Bla­sio has a clear mes­sage to ride-hail­ing com­pan­ies such as Uber and Ly­ft: Don’t raise your prices dur­ing the com­ing snowstorm.

“If you have any evid­ence — if you hap­pen to take, for ex­ample, for-hire vehicles or have any evid­ence of people tak­ing ad­vant­age of this emer­gency to un­fairly and il­leg­ally raise the prices of their rides, it is im­port­ant to call 311 and re­port it,” de Bla­sio said dur­ing a Monday press con­fer­ence. “Price gou­ging in the con­text of emer­gency is il­leg­al.”

Uber, Ly­ft, Side­car, and sim­il­ar ser­vices of­ten in­sti­tute so-called surge-pri­cing when de­mand is par­tic­u­larly high. The com­pan­ies say the fare hikes, which take place most of­ten dur­ing week­end nights and on some hol­i­days such as New Year’s Eve, are im­ple­men­ted to keep their drivers on the road to meet cus­tom­er de­mand. Surges are also com­mon dur­ing in­clement weath­er.

Uber re­ceived with­er­ing scru­tiny last month when it briefly charged riders in down­town Sydney a min­im­um fare of $100 — an “auto­mat­ic surge” that came dur­ing an armed host­age situ­ation. The com­pany later re­versed course and offered re­funds to af­fected riders.

Uber told Bloomberg Busi­nes­s­week on Monday that it would sus­pend its surges dur­ing the storm in com­pli­ance with a deal reached with the New York at­tor­ney gen­er­al last year.

“Dy­nam­ic pri­cing will be capped, and all Uber pro­ceeds will be donated to the Amer­ic­an Red Cross to sup­port re­lief ef­forts,” Uber said in a state­ment.

Uber and Ly­ft did not im­me­di­ately re­turn a re­quest for com­ment from Na­tion­al Journ­al.

New York At­tor­ney Gen­er­al re­it­er­ated de Bla­sio’s mes­sage on Twit­ter Monday af­ter­noon:

New York City and much of the North­east re­gion is bra­cing for a bliz­zard that may drop more than two feet of snow in some areas and is ex­pec­ted to af­fect tens of mil­lions. Thou­sands of flights have been can­celled for what some are call­ing a po­ten­tially his­tor­ic snowstorm.

De Bla­sio is­sued a city­wide ban on none­mer­gency traffic be­gin­ning at 11 p.m. Monday.

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