In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack in the London Bridge area on Saturday night, where seven people were tragically killed, the tweets started flooding in to Uber.
Taxi drivers taking people away from London Bridge for free, while Uber is surge charging ??— Laura (@lauradronfield) June 3, 2017
Uber's surge pricing - or "dynamic pricing" as they call it - is algorithmically triggered. So if demand in a certain area goes up, Uber's algorithms automatically "surge" the pricing depending on the levels of supply and demand in the area.
This strategy makes perfect business sense and encourages more drivers to serve an in-demand area, but often infuriates users of the services. None more so than when it coincides with hundreds of people trying to flee an area where a terrorist attack is occurring.
Uber responded by suspending dynamic pricing in the area around an hour after the attack occurred and is refunding all journeys taken in that area at the time, as it did following the recent attacks in London's Westminster and in Manchester.
Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber in London, said: "As soon as we heard about the incident we immediately suspended dynamic pricing all around the area of the attacks - and shortly afterwards across the whole of central London - just as we did following the attacks in Manchester and Westminster.
"We are also ensuring all rides from around the affected area were free of charge."
Uber says that it eventually switched off dynamic pricing at 10:50pm and expanded the no-surging area at 11:40pm. Police say the attack started at 9:58pm.
But some Twitter users claimed surge pricing was still in place after midnight.
The problem with taking these tweets at face value is that Uber is currently embroiled in a cold war with licensed black cab drivers and various trade unions. So events like this gives Uber's critics an opportunity, however unedifying it may be, to take shots at the ride-hailing service.
Is Uber doing enough?
The issue here really comes down to speed of response. Can Uber, with its significant engineering expertise, do more to avoid accusations of profiteering when people are trying to flee a terror attack?
Much like the issue with accusations of Facebook failing to remove extremist content from its platform quickly enough, should Uber develop a trigger, or even a small dedicated team, to stop this from happening? Does the company care enough to do this?
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Unlike Facebook, where CEO Mark Zuckerberg has promised to try to tackle the issue of extremist content on the platform, Uber has yet to announce a strategy to avoid this happening in the future. Moreover, its beleaguered CEO Travis Kalanick has been silent on the subject.
Uber has had a disastrously bad year for PR, from senior executives leaving in the aftermath of a wide-ranging sexual harassment scandal, to claims that it stole trade secrets from rivals developing self-driving cars.
So appearing to profit in the aftermath of a terrorist attack certainly isn't the best look for Uber, and its social media team has been busy responding to tweets with the above statement, along with promises to refund anyone travelling at the time of the attack.
Hopefully we won't have to find out how Uber responds to this sort of incident in the future, but the company may have to find a way to operate within this new normal.
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