Austin (KXAN) — Austin resident Kevin Whipps had used rideshare apps before to get to his home near Burnet Road and Koenig Lane, so he wasn’t expecting anything different when he requested a Lyft ride Saturday night.
He picked up a ride in downtown Austin around seven miles driving distance from his home.
During regular hours, a ride this distance comes up to $10.87 on the Lyft app, though Lyft did note Whipps requested it during 70% “Prime Time” hours.
When Whipps awoke the next morning, he was stunned to see his bill totaled to a staggering $627.41.
On Sunday, Whipps reached out to Lyft to contest the charges.
In text messages, Whipps shared with KXAN, someone who identified herself as Kiara from Lyft told him Sunday morning that the company would remove all the charges except for $64.05. The text said that is the amount Whipps was quoted for the ride and that amount was needed to compensate the driver for time and gas.
While Whipps doesn’t remember the exact price he was quoted for the ride, he said that if he knew it would have been more than $60 he wouldn’t have taken it.
The text from Kiara went on to say, “It seems your driver forgot to end the ride, and we’ve gone ahead and updated the system so that you’ll not be paired with [driver’s name] again.”
Lyft also said that Whipps requested a Luxe Black Ride (which is more expensive), Whipps believes he did so accidentally.
Whips received an additional text from Lyft later that evening stating that he was overcharged for his ride.
“I have made sure that you will not be charged for this ride,” said a person named Brittany, who identified herself as part of the Executive team at Lyft, in a text message to him.
A new price quote Whipps was given after that showed him owing $0.00. This price breakdown from Lyft also showed that the ride was clocked at 113 minutes and 51 seconds and that the ride was recorded as taking 80.28 miles — more than 11 times greater than the number of miles between Whipps’ pick up location and his drop off spot. Whipps said the ride he recalls taking “30 minutes max.”
Lyft sent KXAN a statement about this ride on Monday evening saying the following:
“The driver forgot to end the ride at the time the rider was dropped off. Support notified the rider of this and adjusted the charge to the upfront fee he was quoted,” a Lyft spokesperson said.
“I would hate for it to happen to anybody else,” Whipps said. “And in that regard, what I think is important to do is to voice your opinion if something like that happened.”
Though Whipps is glad to get a refund, he’s not sure why he was charged for that much time or that many hours in the first place.
“I think they should be more transparent about that kind of thing,” he said.
So what do you do if you think you’ve been charged unfairly?
You can dispute your ride with Lyft if you feel you were charged unfairly. To do so, go to your tab in the Lyft app titled “Ride History,” then select the “Get Help” option. From there, you can get help based on the type of situation you’re experiencing. You can also do this online through Lyft’s support center.
On the Lyft website, the company notes that what you’re priced is based on factors including, “route, time of day, ride type, number of available drivers, current demand for rides, and any local fees or surcharges.” Prices may be higher when the app is busy, the company says.
The Lyft website goes on to say that common reasons people believe they are overcharged for rides include: surge pricing during busy times, poor route navigation, toll fees, service fees added on a per-ride basis, or fees charged to pay for physical damage to the driver’s car.
Lyft also states that riders can also be charged for canceling on a ride in certain situations.
The company also says that some customers report being asked to pay for rides they didn’t take, they explain a driver may start a ride without you or a different rider may have taken your ride instead. Lyft says they’ll investigate those situations. The writer of this article was charged for a ride she didn’t take in one of these situations, after asking Lyft to review what happened, the company removed the charges she was asked to pay.
For the Austin-based rideshare app RideAustin, you can also contest your charges within the app on your phone. Head to the Trip History/ Support section, then select the trip from your trip history and select the option you’d like from there (including a request to have your charge removed).
The company explained that factors like traffic, road closures, and weather are top reasons their customers may request to have their fares reviewed.
“We recommend contacting our Support team right away regarding any potential issues in the fare. Every single support ticket is read by an actual human, and we run a fare review right away to correct any discrepancies,” a spokesperson for RideAustin said in an email.
The company said that the sooner riders send in support tickets, the sooner they can make corrections.
“Sometimes, we are able to catch the charge before it even posts to the rider account and make any necessary adjustments prior to it posting,” the spokesperson said. “Our average response time on this issue is typically less than an hour, but certainly within a day.”
RideAustin notes that their pre-ride fare estimates should be accurate, but that “weather, traffic conditions, road closures, and other external factors can influence your final fare.”
“We also require rider confirmation of pricing if Priority Fare (surge) is in effect,” RideAustin said. “Before requesting a ride during surge, riders must type in the rate displayed on-screen. “
The company explained in an email that they use different algorithms to examine rider costs and to note when a wrong route is taken or someone is overcharged. They added that they “rarely see instances of drivers forgetting to end the ride” because drivers are automatically prompted to end the ride when they reach their destination. Drivers also cannot take on another ride until they end the current one, RideAustin explained.
You can also email complaints to RideAustin at email@example.com.
Within the app for rideshare company Uber, users can dispute charges by going to the “Your Trips” section, selecting the trip in question, and selecting “review my fare or fees.” You can also use this function to have cancellation fees you’ve been charged reviewed.
If you’ve received a charge you don’t recognize from Uber, you can also ask the company to review the charge using the form at the bottom of this link.
In fact, Uber has a whole list of information about what to do in dozens of situations where riders may ask for a refund.
When Uber first began as a company, all their customer support was done via email and handled by local teams. The company explained in 2016 that as they grew internationally, that approach became inefficient, and the company began allowing users to ask for support or dispute charges within the app.
Like Lyft, Uber encourages users to make sure that they are not getting confused with a pending “authorization” which won’t actually charge your account. Uber also asks riders to make sure a family member or friend has not taken a trip on your account.
Uber shared an announcement on Sept. 17 about a feature called “Ride Check” within the app. This feature uses GPS and sensors on smartphones to detect if a crash has happened or if a trip has gone off course. At that point, Uber will send a RideCheck notification, asking the rider and the driver if everything is OK.
Advice from the Better Business Bureau
“Most people don’t usually take the time to read those terms and conditions on an app,” explained Lori Wilson, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the San Francisco Bay Area. The BBB branch she runs keeps track of companies in that area like Lyft.
“In the case of Lyft, our experience is to date shows Lyft abides by their terms and conditions,” Wilson said of the company.
Wilson noted that rideshare apps often have ways within the app to alert the company of a problem.
“I would use that service,” she said. “I would take screenshots.”
“If the company doesn’t handle it, I would without question file a complaint with BBB,” she said.