Ride-hailing service Uber Technologies issued an apology for temporarily raising prices during the hostage crisis in Sydney that killed three people.
Uber, in a Dec. 23 blog post, acknowledged that the so-called "surge pricing" that goes into effect when there's a jump in rider demand within a certain geographic area wasn't immediately overridden. The closely held company uses computer algorithms to modify pricing in order to lure potential drivers into service.
"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," the company wrote in the blog post. "We didn't stop surge pricing immediately. This was the wrong decision. We quickly reversed course and provided free rides to people needing to leave the [central business district]. In the end, no rider was charged to leave the CBD on Monday and all higher fares resulting from surge pricing earlier in the day were fully refunded."
Uber demand in central Sydney spiked on the evening of Dec. 14 after a gunman took 17 people hostage in a local cafe. The standoff lasted about 17 hours, and three people were killed, including the gunman. Reports surfaced that Uber ride prices from Sydney's CBD quadrupled from its standard rates during the early hours of the standoff. Uber didn't say how much money was refunded to Sydney customers.
"We are all concerned with events in CBD. Fares have increased to encourage more drivers to come online & pick up passengers in the area," Uber Sydney tweeted on its Twitter account at 7:35 p.m. local time on Dec. 14.
"Uber Sydney trips from CBD will be free for riders. Higher rates are still in place to encourage drivers to get into the CBD," Uber Sydney tweeted 40 minutes later.
Uber has been operating in Sydney since November 2012.