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Uber backtracks over price hike

Popular web-based taxi firm Uber went into damage control mode yesterday, offering free rides to passengers fleeing an armed siege in Sydney after earlier hiking prices upwards of A$100 (S$108).

The company said it would also refund fares after initially implementing "surge pricing", which increases rates during peak demand, for passengers exiting Sydney's central business district as police surrounded a cafe where a gunman was holding hostages.

Online news website Mashable earlier reported that in the immediate aftermath of the Sydney siege, Uber began charging passengers four times regular fares with a minimum charge of A$100 to leave the area.

Uber tweeted that fares were "increased to encourage more drivers to come online & pick up passengers in the area".

Replies to the tweet, however, were almost uniformly negative.

'DISGRACE'

"What a shameful disgrace," wrote Twitter user Tyson Armstrong, while Lewis Henshall said: "Despicable @Uber-Sydney. Have you never heard of corporate responsibility?"

The company later issued a statement saying it "will be providing free rides out of the CBD to help Sydneysiders get home safely" and that it was "in the process of refunding rides". - AFP.