An Auckland woman who paid close to $120 for an Uber ride from the city to New Lynn on a Wednesday night is warning others to beware of surging prices around the busy holiday period.
Mt Albert local Alison, who didn't want her last named used for privacy reasons, said she used Uber to get home from last week's Cat Stevens concert.
"I live in Sandringham, my friend lives in New Lynn, we went to the train station but the next one was 45 minutes away so I said, 'don't worry, I'll get an Uber'."
"I pulled my phone out, did the ordering thing and one was five minutes away so I didn't think anything of it really."
She was aware of the company's use of "surging" prices, which occurred in response to fluctuations in demand. However, she said she tended to use the service in spite of this.
"Every now and then if you get a bit of a surge you don't really mind, but I've never had a surge that big before. I didn't even know it went that high."
Alison got out at Sandringham. Her friend went on to New Lynn, but Alison footed the bill.
"It wasn't until the next morning ... you know how you see your emails the next morning 'thank you for riding with Uber' and it said 'Your charge was $119.80'. The base fare was $33 and then the surge was 3.7, so it had almost quadrupled."
Stunned, and convinced something had gone wrong, Alison contacted Uber. The response said the company could not provide a refund, and advised her to review the fare estimate in the future before confirming the ride.
The 46-year-old said she felt the company was capitalising on the fact lots of people were in town trying to get home.
An Uber spokesperson said "surges" or "dynamic pricing" ensured passengers who wanted a ride could always get one.
They said the pricing was fully transparent. If the price was too high, riders could ask to be notified when the price dropped back down to standard levels.
"The fare calculation method should always be available to the rider, as well as an estimated price."
The best way to keep prices low was to get enough drivers on the road to meet demand, the spokesperson said.
"We have taken several steps to remind drivers of the earnings opportunities available in December and on NYE (New Year's Eve), as well as where and when demand will be high."
Alison acknowledged she had accepted the fare fluctuation when she requested the ride, but said the surge notification on the app wasn't all that obvious.
"Obviously they can do that, I just thought I need to let others know it's pretty dire at the moment. Just be really careful and read what's on your app before you press confirm."
She hadn't used Uber since the trip - which she said cost nearly the same as a Cat Stevens concert ticket - and said it had left a "really bad taste".
Another Uber customer who occasionally used the app for her morning commute said she had noticed price surges becoming "more of a regular thing".
The Auckland woman, who didn't want to be named, said when standard pricing was in place an Uber ride at $15-17 was more cost effective than driving and paying to park in the city.
However, a recent 1.7 surge had put her off.
"For a $30 trip I may as well drive in and pay for parking", she said.
Jacob Patel from Blue Bubble Taxi group said people were beginning to realise that Uber isn't as cheap as it's made out to be.
Blue Bubble, which was the umbrella company for Wellington Combined Taxis and Auckland Co-op Taxis, used a pricing model with set GST and no surging.
"Because we don't have any surges people know that whatever time of the day we're able to provide a service at the same price", he said.
Patel wasn't surprised by stories of extreme price surges with Uber.
He said a client had told him they once paid over $300 to get across town from Vector Arena to Ponsonby.
"It only takes one big surge to ruin all the savings you've made on short journeys up until then."