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Uber Defends Charging Customers 500% More For Cars During Tube Strike

"The alternative to surge is no cars for anyone," a spokesperson said said after people accused the company of "cashing in" on people's misery during a 24-hour London tube strike.

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Uber has defended its use of surge pricing during Monday's tube strike, which has left thousands struggling to commute to work in London.

The taxi app has been charging in some cases 500% more for journeys because of increased demand for cars in the capital.

One user tweeted to say they had been charged £91 for a seven-mile journey, while another claimed to have been charged £111 for a five-mile journey.

As people struggled to travel across London, some accused Uber of being "the real winner" of the tube strike.

Wow, @Uber feels positive effects of the #TubeStrike ⚡️ “Congratulations to the real Tube strike winners, Uber!” https://t.co/jjw3YJRKRO

Don't know who I think less of - the @RMTunion for causing this commuter misery or @Uber for cashing in with 4.5 x surge pricing #TubeStrike

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That's my Uber driver just arrived. #TubeStrike

Some customers said they had been charged more than £100 for a short journey.

Just got charged £111 by @Uber to travel 5 miles , from Zone 2 to Zone 1..luckily i'm not paying, but how is that ok?.tube strike or not!!

Other customers shared screenshots of the app on Monday with minimum fares 450% higher than usual.

Uber serving the people of London on tube strike day.

Clapham Junction evacuated, Uber surge x5. Love a Monday.

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This person paid 3.3 times more than the base rate and still missed his train.

Ouch 3.3x surge pricing with #uber Clapham to Kings X set me back £71.61 !! 😫 and I missed the train #TubeStrike… https://t.co/8t8LLgmTzc

The company – which works out fees based on time spent in the car, miles driven, and demand in the local area – defended its use of surge pricing during tube strikes.

A spokesperson for Uber told BuzzFeed News its “dynamic pricing” was fair. “The fare increases automatically, and only in response to real-time demand when there are not enough available cars,” she said.

“Higher fares incentivise more drivers to go online so we can help more people get where they need to go. Without this pricing model there would simply be no cars available.”

While the majority of customers were furious, some defended the company and pointed out its business model relies on surge pricing.

Expecting Uber drivers to work for peanuts during a Tube Strike is a typically London sense of entitlement

While I see the frustration with the tube strike, those complaining that their uber ride costs more are kinda missing the point.

To all those carping at Uber's surge pricing during the strike: this is how their business works and this is what is to come.

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Uber also said other taxi firms had a wait time of up to an hour on Monday.

It said "many industries" use increased prices at times when they anticipate high demand, such as with peak-time train tickets, late-night taxi tariffs, and hotel rates during the Christmas season.

"Uber does not have any surcharges based on the time of day or holiday but rather dynamic pricing measures demand in real-time, adjusting fares to make sure Uber remains reliable," the company said.

It is not the first time Uber has found itself in hot water over its pricing model.

In 2014 it was heavily criticised for implementing surge pricing in Sydney, Australia, during a hostage crisis at a café.

The firm apologised, dropped the rates, and offered to refund customers affected. It is, however, sticking firm on its decision to use surge pricing during tube strikes.

Sara Spary is a consumer business correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Sara Spary at sara.spary@buzzfeed.com.

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