Uber Car Service Offering Free Rides in Sydney

Dec 15, 2014 12:40 PM EST | Matt Mercuro

Uber is offering free rides from Sydney's central business district after a public backlash over an initial surge in prices during a hostage drama in a city café.

Fares on the U.S.-based online car service's booking app rose to a minimum fee of A$100 ($82) for pickups near the siege, according to Reuters. This more than four times the fare before the drama took place.

The price increase was a result of Uber's controversial automatic surge pricing.

An assailant was holding an unspecified amount of hostages inside a central Sydney café on Monday, with local TV showing some people being forced to hold up a black flag with white Arabic writing in the window, according to Reuters.

The city's public transport system was under intense pressure as a result of the siege since a number of businesses had to evacuate, including major banks, which sent employees home.

"We are all concerned with events in CBD," Uber tweeted out from its official account when first challenged about the increase. "Fares have increased to encourage more drivers to come online and pick up passengers in the area".

About an hour later, a flurry of tweets were sent out, causing Uber to announce that trips from the central business district would be free of charge.

"Uber Sydney will be providing free rides out of the CBD to help Sydneysiders get home safely," Uber said in an emailed statement, according to Reuters. "We are in the process of refunding rides."

Uber has grown as a company all over the globe this year, but it has been hurt by a few controversies surrounding its approach to local governments and traditional taxi services.

The company was recently banned in the Indian capital of New Delhi and the Netherlands after a female passenger accused one of its drivers of rape a few weeks ago. 

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