Uber reveals Huntsville rate hike was a ‘technical issue’. Car riding service refunds overcharge

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - In the last few days, Uber prices soared in the Rocket City, so we took action to find out why.

Around 4 p.m. Friday, the company responded to WHNT News 19, saying a technical glitch caused the price increase and that the issue has been fixed. Some customers still had to shell out more money for the higher priced ride, including one of our crews at WHNT News 19.

To highlight the difference in price, around 10:30 Friday morning, we called the Huntsville cab company to request a taxi. Our driver, Bobby, took us to Providence Marketplace. It's a seven mile ride that takes about 16 minutes to get there. The cab fare cost $17.70.

After a quick lunch, we went back to the station, requested an Uber, and within minutes, Jody arrived in her Honda Accord. It was the same route, only in reverse, and it took the same amount of time to get there. At the time during the rate hike, the fare cost $64.42. Uber did refund $47.43 due to the overcharge on Saturday, making the final total $16.99.

Back in March, when our station took the same trip to the same destination, it was around $20. It appears prices have been restored to this level after the glitch was discovered.

According to Uberestimate.com, the normal Huntsville base fee jumped from $1.80 to $8.00, the fee per minute went from 20 cents to $1.25, and the fee per mile soared from $1.50 to $4.90.

Jody Pope is early in her career as a driver with Uber, but says none of her passengers in the last two days complained of sticker shock.  "The only thing I`ve gotten is compliments actually," she says.

Pope had nothing but praise for the ride-sharing company and contends the extra money was still worth it for convenience and the experience. "I would be willing to pay that extra $20 just to know I`m going to enjoy the ride, it`s comfortable," says Pope.

If convenience is your top priority, she may have a point. It took about a half hour for Huntsville Cab to arrive, granted Bobby says he vacuumed out the car when he heard he'd be on TV tonight. Jody with Uber arrived within 10 minutes.  "It`s so fast. Somebody`s there," says Pope.

"Crippling our business"

The owner of the Huntsville Cab Company, Mazen Attubeh, says 70% of his business has been taken away by Uber. It's a pain that's all too real for driver Bobby Brown.  "It seems like there`s actually fewer riders on the weekends and you see a lot of people standing on the corner, waiting along with their people for Uber," he says.

When it comes to convenience, Uber has a lot to boast. The app lets you request a ride without getting on the phone. It also tracks your location so you don't have to describe where you're located. "For some reason they prefer to use the phone and call is the other reason people like Uber more," says Brown.

Beyond the app, Huntsville Cab Company's owner says companies like Uber have an unfair advantage because they don't have to pay insurance on any of their driver's cars.  "The Uber drivers are not, in my opinion, qualified. They don`t have to have a limo license as we do," he says.

In fact, it takes about two months for a cab driver to be certified and licensed in the state of Alabama. Uber drivers don't need a limo license and can be ready to start shuttling within a matter of days. Attubeh tells us he just wants the playing field to be even, so if Uber doesn't have these requirements, he thinks they shouldn't either.

As for Bobby, he says the next time you need a ride, think of them. 'We`re waiting for you and if you prefer to wait 45 minutes for an Uber, that`s up to you, but if I was waiting, I`d take a cab," he says.