Allegedly hoping to make their app “less complicated,” US-based tech mogul Uber has decided to begin to hide surge pricing notifications from its users.
For those who haven’t used the popular ride sharing app, during busy periods the texi firm’s customers are told that they will be charged ‘surge prices’ that can be 1.7, 2.3, or even 5 times the standard fare. The busiest times tend to be during holidays or major public events.
Jim Clark, research director at Econsultancy, believes that hiding the surge price may be a method for Uber to keep customers from being discouraged to use the ride sharing service despite higher prices.
“I’ve been in the situation myself, where I’ve held off using an Uber during a surge,” Clark explained.
“We are sensitive to price- as a nation we do like a bargain and that’s one of the reasons they’ll be making this change.”
According to Uber, the company is moving to a system where riders know the cost of their journey before booking. Currently, factors like traffic can increase the price of a ride. Uber released this upcoming change in a blog post that stated the revision would take place in the US and India, with more cities following suit given that the change is successful.
The hiding of surge price notifications will also come with the removal of an option that tells customers when the surge price drops.
“There’s no complicated math and no surprises- passengers can just sit back and enjoy the ride,” Uber said in a statement. Mr. Clark believes this change will be financially advantageous for the company:
“There is the argument that it becomes quicker and easier to see the price,” he conceded,” But I think that’s an argument only Uber might make rather than anybody else… From a business perspective, it makes sense- it encourages people to use the service.”
“But it’s important to give users the choice of whether to wait- being given all the information is the spirit of the sharing economy,” Clark continued. “At the very least they could give users the option to switch the surge information on or off.”
Clark makes a pretty convincing argument- after all, if Uber was truly rolling this change out in an effort to help its customers, the ability to decide whether to simplify the app and have no surge information or keep the surge information and be better informed regarding price would surely please everyone with an opinion on the subject.
In fact, it seems almost like it would be illegal to create a business model in which the customer does not have the option to know the price of the service they sign up for, or at least the rates involved in the service.
That said, if the notifications are removed at the same time that the app is made to tell people how much their ride will cost before they decide whether or not to pay, the issue goes away.
Perhaps it’s simply the middle ground that’s awkward and somewhat exploitative; we’ll have to see how consumers react.