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From Australia To France, Another Bad Day For Uber

Uber's troubles are mounting. The ride-sharing service was criticized in Australia after its "surge pricing" kicked in, quadrupling fares for some customers trying to flee the area in Sydney where a gunman took hostages in a cafe.

Here's a screenshot that one customer sent to Mashable with details of the increased fare:

The backlash was immediate, and Uber's initial response drew more.

This is typical of the response to Uber's tweet:

The company backtracked. In a statement on its website, Uber said it will "be providing free rides out of the CBD to help Sydneysiders get home safely."

Uber said it was in the process of refunding those who had been charged for their rides. And, it once again noted, "surge pricing is used to encourage more drivers to come online and pick up passengers from the area."

It responded to complaints on Twitter, saying, "Surge pricing is automated. We took action to cap surge & made trips free for riders." And, it added, it was "still paying drivers the higher fares."

The events in Sydney capped a bad day for Uber.

France banned Uber's low-cost UberPop because the service's drivers don't have professional licenses.

Under a French law set to go into effect Jan. 1, those who operate without professional licenses will be fined more than $350,000 and face up to two years in prison. Uber said UberPop will continue to operate until a judge rules that the new law applies to it. The Wall Street Journal adds:

"The declaration of a French crackdown is a big blow to Uber, which is already facing bans and stiff opposition from incumbent taxi operators in cities across the world.

"Uber claims more than half a million users in France and operates in seven cities here, more than in any other country in Europe. Paris is the first city where Uber launched outside the U.S., and is still the company's second-largest market in Europe after London."

It's the latest blow to Uber, which last week saw its drivers accused of rapes in New Delhi and Chicago. The attorneys general of Los Angeles and San Francisco counties sued the company, accusing it of misrepresenting and exaggerating how extensively it performs background checks on its drivers.

Authorities in Spain, the Netherlands, Thailand, Brazil and Portland, Ore., have also ordered Uber to stop or suspend its services. Their concerns, like France's, are over Uber's lack of permits that give it an advantage over traditional taxis.

The company's troubles come soon after it was valued at more than $40 billion.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.