Uber drivers can game the app and play chicken with riders to receive the cancellation fee, but the company says fraudulent activity like this is rare.
I suspect my partner and I played chicken on two occasions while visiting Melbourne earlier this month.
On the first occasion the driver drove past us and continued driving through the Melbourne CBD. The driver told us he would drive past again but parked up the street.
When we began walking up to the car he cancelled the ride. My partner was charged $10, which has since been refunded.
A week later our driver appeared to be heading towards our location on St Kilda Road, but instead turned off and seemingly took a scenic tour of South Melbourne before parking hundreds of metres away.
Again we rang the driver who said they were still coming, but shortly after the call the ride was cancelled at no cost.
All up we spent about 10 minutes waiting for the driver, then another few minutes for the new one.
After putting these two situations on social media several friends and acquaintances from Perth said they had experienced something similar.
According to Uber’s cancellation policies, riders may be charged a cancellation fee to “driver-partners for the time and effort they spend getting to your location”.
These policies mean if riders cancel their ride after a certain amount of time in frustration at the driver not taking a direct route, the driver gets the fee.
Riders who cancel their ride are unable to rate the drivers on their poor effort in getting to the location, meaning their rating remains intact. Riders can contact Uber directly to complain about the pick up.
Uber’s own community guidelines raise the issue of gaming the app and say the company is constantly monitoring it.
The guidelines warn drivers the company will deactivate accounts if they “[accept] trip requests without the intention to complete, including provoking riders to cancel”.
After it was put to Uber that drivers were playing chicken with riders for the cancellation fee, a spokeswoman did not deny it happened, but said reports of fraudulent activity relating to cancellations were rare.
“We take allegations of fraudulent activity seriously, of which gaming for cancellation fees is included, and investigate any reported incidents,” she said.
“This is in breach of the community guidelines and can result in users losing access to the app.”
“We have a 24/7 customer response team that constantly monitors all feedback and takes action in real-time as appropriate. If a rider feels they have been incorrectly charged a cancellation fee, they can reach out to us via in-app help and we will investigate the matter.”
The spokeswoman said my first Melbourne experience was the result of the driver cancelling after a certain amount of time, despite him not being near our pickup location.
She said the second trip was the result of a technical or mapping issue.