Kaapstad to Kolkata: Uber user racks up massive bill

Johannesburg - A Cape Town Uber user was recently shocked to find his account had been drained by the cab-hailing service, which debited him over R3 000 for an 8 250km trip to India. 

READ: How Uber plans to disrupt SA's delivery industry

Stubbs told Fin24 that an amount of over R3 000 had been debited from his account by the service for what Uber had explained to him as a “holding deposit”. 

Stubbs said that the last requested trip in his Uber ride history was from Muizenberg, but was subsequently cancelled. His end destination, seemingly and possibly mistakenly, was somewhere in India.

“I woke up shocked that my account had been debited. After checking with my bank I found out that the debit had been for Uber,” he told Fin24.

“There is always the possibility that I entered the destination incorrectly. Even if I did, they are aware of their ‘hold’ policy, and should not allow impossible trips to be accepted as this would always debit large amounts from somebody's account,” Stubbs told Fin24. 

Fin24 has established that trips to intercontinental countries can in fact be made to destinations like Nairobi, Kenya and even the more impossible journeys like overseas to India. 

“If you want to request a ride for a friend in Cape Town you can do that. If you want to request a ride in Australia for a friend you can do that. If you want to ride yourself from Joburg to Durban, well that is up to the driver-partner to confirm he is happy with the trip but if he/she is happy, yes you could do,” Uber spokesperson Samantha Allenberg said.

Allenberg said Uber could not comment on the details of Stubss' account due to privacy policy. Fin24 understands that Stubbs' bank reimbursed him the amount in the end.

But Allenberg urged riders to be aware of their end-destinations when using the app.

READ: Uber keeps self-driving cars rolling

“We strongly encourage riders to make sure they are inputting the correct pick up and drop off addresses, as the upfront fare amount will be based on this information (and subsequently the auth-hold that is placed on their card),” she told Fin24.

“You will also see a screen showing your pick up/drop off addresses, as entered by you, and the upfront fare for each vehicle class - before you are prompted to select a ride,” she said.

Authorisation holds are a standard procedure by Uber and other services such a car rental companies. 

Uber has said previously that at the start of a trip, it can place a temporary authorisation hold for the upfront fare of the trip on a payment method. 

“This will show up as a 'pending' charge on your account. When the trip completes, this hold is converted to a charge for the final trip fare," said Allenberg.

“If the trip has been cancelled or the total fare is different than the upfront price, the original authorisation hold should disappear from your account, but depending on your bank policy this might take up to a few days,” she added. 

READ: Uber’s financial loss is eye-popping

The refund of the hold deposit is on the onus of the user's bank, and dependent on when they release the funds.

Uber said it will continue to do more education around authorisation holds to prevent instances such as these.

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