24 December 2014
Last updated at 06:38
Uber says it is unfortunate that it is perceived as having acted against the interests of the public
Taxi booking firm Uber has apologised for raising fare prices during a deadly cafe siege in Sydney last week.
The firm raised fares by as much as four times its normal rate when demand shot up during the hostage crisis that left three people dead.
Its “surge pricing” algorithm increased fares during the peak period as people rushed to leave the area.
After facing heavy criticism on social media on the day, the firm started offering free rides out of the city.
It also said it would refund the cost of the rides that had been affected by the higher fares.
“The events of last week in Sydney were upsetting for the whole community and we are truly sorry for any concern that our process may have added,” Uber said in a blog post on Tuesday.
“We didn’t stop surge pricing immediately. This was the wrong decision.”
The 16 hour siege ended with three people dying, including the gunman Man Haron Monis.
The company said that its priority was to help as many people get out of the central business area safely, but that was “poorly” communicated, and led to a lot of misunderstanding about its motives.
“This [surge pricing] encourages more drivers to the area where people are requesting rides,” when demand outstrips the supply of cars on the road, Uber said.
The controversial move in Sydney is the latest pieces of negative publicity to affect the company, which is under attack in several countries for the way its service competes with traditional taxi services.
Uber has defended its surge pricing strategy in other cities, but reached an agreement with regulators in the US to restrict the policy during national emergencies.