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Oops! Uber charged a rider more than $14,000 for a 20-minute journey

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It’s fair to say that 2017 has been something of an annus horribilis for Uber.

From damaging employee allegations and rider protests to accusations of “calculated theft” and a battle to retain its license in one of its biggest markets — not to mention a massive data breach cover-up and the ousting of its founder Travis Kalanick as CEO — 2017 will be a year to forget for the ridesharing giant.

With just a couple of weeks left to run, Uber may have been hoping to keep a low profile for the rest of this year, but it’s not to be.

An embarrassing hiccup with its fare system may not be its biggest disaster of the last 12 months, but for one rider it was nevertheless an alarming experience.

Toronto-based Hisham Salama recently took a 5-mile ride that lasted around 20 minutes, a journey for which you’d normally expect to pay around $10. Uber, however, charged an eye-watering 18,518.50 Canadian dollars, equivalent to about $14,400 in the United States.

In what appeared to be surge pricing gone nuts, Salama told Vice that upon learning of the exorbitant fare, his initial reaction was “to just laugh, because I thought it was probably just an error.”

But 20 minutes later, he decided to check his credit card “to make sure everything was OK.” It wasn’t.

More alarmingly, an Uber customer service representative told Salama that based on the ride data, the fare was correct.

The absurd feedback from Uber prompted Salama to share the bizarre story on social media, which eventually led to him receiving a full refund. The resolution of course came as a big relief, but Salama was concerned about the initial response and how much effort it took to settle the issue.

In a statement to Slate, Uber finally admitted there had been a mistake. “There was an error here and it has been resolved,” a spokesperson said. “We have provided a full refund to this rider and apologized to him for this experience. We have safeguards in place to help prevent something like this from happening, and we are working to understand how this occurred.”

A slightly clearer explanation about what happened came from the Canadian Press: “Uber says the ride in question took place in a traditional taxi cab signed up to the ridehailing service — an option available to customers in Toronto — and that the driver made a mistake when entering the details of the fare into his cab’s meter.”

If nothing else, the story is a useful reminder to periodically check your bank and credit card records to ensure there are no weird shenanigans taking place without you realizing.

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