Uber activated its surge pricing in the middle of the Sydney hostage crisis. Would it happen in the U.S.?

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Amid a hostage crisis in Sydney on Monday, the ride-sharing company Uber caught a wave of bad press.

The company's surge pricing kicked in as Sydney residents fled an ongoing hostage situation, prompting outrage. The company immediately turned it off and began offering free rides to the entire area.


So what would happen in the U.S. during a similar situation?

As it turns out, just this past week, Uber was criticized for having surge pricing switched on during powerful storms that ripped through California. An Uber representative told the San Francisco Examiner that it didn't turn off the surge pricing because "there was no state of emergency declared."


In a blog post this past July, the company said surge pricing during emergencies would be capped, but not eliminated. Instead, it would be set to a level below the three most recent surge days.

“This policy intends to strike the careful balance between the goal of transportation availability with community expectations of affordability during disasters," CEO Travis Kalanick wrote at the time.


Uber also said it would donate its usual 20 percent commission during emergency surge rides to the American Red Cross.

The nationwide policies were announced after the company reached an agreement with the state of New York to cap pricing there.


An Uber rep told Fusion in an email that they don't have plans to review the U.S. policy.

Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.