When ride-hailing service Uber started imposing a penalty fee today on customers showing up late, it probably thought there would be no violent objection since its rival Grab has already introduced wait-time charges.
Its introduction of the 20 cent-per-minute surcharge has stirred a hornet's nest as users on its Facebook page responded with howls of disapproval after it posted the news late last night.
Passengers might end up paying even more as the late penalties are subject to the standard Uber service fee as well as to surge pricing - Uber's method for raising rates when there is a high demand for rides in an area.
The charges, which are imposed after the driver has waited for three minutes, only apply to rides on Uber's uberX, XL, Exec and ExecLarge services. The uberPOOL, uberCARSEAT and uberASSIST services are not charging the fee yet.
Explaining the rationale for its move, Uber said it had to act on tardy customers and compensate drivers for wasting time waiting after receiving feedback from frustrated drivers.
Now, drivers can have the option to cancel the trip after waiting for five minutes and receive the cancellation fee.
Turning the tables on Uber, its customers lambasted the move as being unfair as they have had experienced many incidents of drivers arriving late, therefore dissatisfied customers have to be compensated too.
Said Nigel Alexander Ang: "Such a dumb fee to be charging...Do you guys consider what if the driver was late? Do consumers get extra discounts? What if driver no show and cancels the ride? Do consumers get the next ride free? Why not impose a penalty on both sides or something rather than solely penalising riders?"
Agreeing, E.C. Kui To wrote: "To be fair, passengers should get compensation for their time lost too. Your estimated arrival time is mostly inaccurate. Sometimes your drivers are blur like sotong, bring you tour around Singapore. Sometimes your navigation system is wrong. Sometimes your UberPool (driver) goes really far out of the way to pick up other passengers (so) the entire journey is much longer than taking MRT/bus.
"Please (sic) consider a credit for our time lost too. Thankfully you are not the monopoly - we still have Grab and taxi."
Regina Ng, who complained about riders always having to wait for Uber drivers longer than the estimated time, appealed to Uber to rethink its late-charge policy since it's getting so much flak.
Pointing to the trail of angry comments left on Uber Facebook page, Darren Ang said: "Simple. Grab doesn't have this nonsense."
Grab's rates are lower - it imposes a $3 fee for every five-minute block only after a driver has waited for five minutes.
Our aim is to give our riders and driver-partners a smooth Uber experience, every time. To ensure that our driver-partners get their due for the time spent on the road, we're introducing wait-time charges.
The unhappy netizens also seemed unconvinced by Uber's response to two of them when it gave a standard robotic answer: "To ensure that riders are not unfairly charged when the drivers are not at the pickup location, we have set the timer to begin only when the driver is at or very close to the pickup location. If the driver is not at or very close to the pickup location, you will not be charged for the wait time."
"After 5 minutes, the driver will normally cancel and collect the pick-up fee. Hence, the only window to charge is between 3 and 5 minutes of waiting time, i.e. 2 minutes of waiting time charge - 40 cents at non surge rate," he said after doing the math.
Whether it's the driver or customer who's at fault, spats between them have continued to surface on social media, sparking debate on customer service as well as passenger behaviour.
Earlier this year, a Uber driver was caught in a video telling the customer to get out of his car after an argument over her being late for 10 minutes.