Tuesday, July 23, 2024
Smartphone news

Uber accused of raising prices for Belgian customers with low smartphone battery

Uber users are allegedly being hit with higher prices if they attempt to book a ride with low smartphone battery.

An investigation by a Belgian newspaper found customers were being charged 6 per cent more if their device’s power supply was dwindling.

Dernière Heure, the Belgian daily, carried out its small-sampled study exclusively in its capital city of Brussels. 

It came after social media users raised questions over whether the popular ride-hailing app was spying on their battery levels.

Some users expressed concerns that the app could take advantage of devices with low battery life because they would likely accept the first ride offer.

A spokesman for Uber, however, refuted claims that its software adjusted the price of fares depending on customers’ remaining charge.

Same Uber journey, different price

Dernière Heure attempted to book two identical journeys from their offices in Brussels to a nearby Tour & Taxis ferry terminal.

One trip was booked with a device with 84 per cent battery, while the other smartphone had just 12 per cent remaining.

The cheaper taxi ride, at €16.60 (£14.56), was offered to the mobile phone with an almost full battery.

Despite being ordered at the same time, from and to the same destination, the device that was almost flat was charged €17.56 (£15.41).

An Uber spokesman said: “Uber does not take into account the phone’s battery level to calculate the price of a trip.

“The dynamic pricing applied to trips booked via Uber is determined by the existing demand for rides and the supply of drivers who can respond to it. 

“During peak hours, when there are many ride requests and few available drivers in a certain geographical area, this may impact the price of the trip.”

Low battery life leads to ‘surge pricing’ 

In 2016, it was reported that Uber users were more likely to be impacted by “surge pricing” if their phone battery was low.

Forbes Magazine, citing Keith Chen, then head of economic research for Uber, said customers were more likely to accept higher prices if they feared their devices could soon die.

Uber users with fully charged phones have more flexibility, allowing them to wait for prices to drop.

The app introduces surge charges, sometimes more than doubling regular fares, if demand outweighs the number of drivers in the local area.

Uber has been criticised previously for ramping up prices using the feature in the midst of a deadly terror attack in London in 2017. 

However, it does not answer the question over whether the firm’s app can deliberately target users with low battery. 

According to the company’s privacy policy, it can collect certain types of data from the devices of its users. This includes hardware model, operating system, preferred language and mobile network information. 

The app can also detect battery information in order to enable a power-saving mode.


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