The ride-sharing app Uber has admitted to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for having engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and making misleading or deceptive representations.
The ACCC instituted proceedings against Uber, alleging that a lack of oversight over Uber’s algorithm resulted in misleading results for Australian users. This is known as dark patterns and operates to further Uber’s interests over the cost of consumers. Between December 2017 and September 2021, Uber displayed a warning to users wishing to cancel a ride that said the user would be charged a small fee for cancellation. However, this warning was appearing before the free cancellation window had expired. Uber has a five minute grace period where a user may cancel a ride without incurring a cost. The ACCC argued that over 2 million Australian users were shown this message whilst trying to cancel a ride.
Secondly, the ACCC alleged that Uber was misrepresenting the estimated fare range for Uber Taxi. Uber Taxi is a feature to get a user a local taxi through the Uber app. However, the algorithm used in Uber Taxi greatly inflated the estimated fare range. This misleading Uber Taxi fare was displayed between June 2018 and August 2020 and was subsequently removed.
Uber admitted to both misleading consumers in regard to the cancellation warning as well as the Uber Taxi fare. The ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb emphasised the need for digital platforms such as Uber to ensure the accuracy of information. Apps such as Uber have become commonplace in society and as such must act in a transparent and accountable way to protect consumer sentiment.
Uber has privately agreed to a fine of $26 million and this penalty determination is awaiting approval by the Federal Court.
For the full reading of the media release, see here.