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.