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Uber makes U-turn after upping fares near Sydney hostage crisis

Uber makes U-turn after upping fares near Sydney hostage crisis

Cab app firm claims users were a victim of its algorithm and try to quell critics with free rides

Taxi-app Uber is offering the public free journeys after it was criticised for upping the price of journeys around the area where hostages were being held in Sydney, Australia.

The Silicon Valley app, which allows passengers to book a taxi through their smartphone, increased fares by four times due to high demand in Sydney's central business district (CBD) following a hostage crisis in a cafe.

The firm has faced criticism from Australian customers, including Michael Paul who told the startup on Twitter "shame on you! Price gouging in a crisis, I would weather [sic] walk barefoot through glass than use your services now".

In retaliation, the company posted a statement on its site which read: "We are all concerned with the events happening in Sydney. Uber Sydney will be providing free rides out of the CBD to help Sydneysiders get home safely."

The U-turn comes as Parisian taxi drivers have blocked roads in the city and to its airports in protest against the firm as the French courts decide whether it can operate in the city.

It has faced several public relation disasters lately, one including a ban in Delhi, India last week after it was alleged that one of its drivers raped a passenger.

The app has been banned across a number of cities in Europe including Brussels and Berlin.

US venture capitalist Fred Wilson warned that Uber needed to ditch its "arrogant" and "ruthless" approach for a successful public flotation.

"They [Uber] need to figure out how to work with the system and not "screw the system," he said during Le Web conference in Paris last week.

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