BBB: Uber users paying real fees for fake vomit

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — False vomit claims by some Uber drivers are costing their passengers large cleaning fees.

The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan released a warning Monday alerting ride-hailing users to the problem.

The BBB says Uber drivers submit pictures of vomit or what appears to be vomit in vehicles.

“Fake vomit, any kind of picture you can get pulled from the internet,” John Masterson from the BBB said.

The company reviews the claim and then charges the rider a cleaning fee. According to Uber’s website, “Cleaning fees are assessed and charged according to the extent of damage. There are 4 levels of severity.” The fees are $20, $40, $80 and $150, but can be more depending on the average cost of professional cleaning services in the area.

The drivers are paid the entire fee to have their car cleaned and then pocket the money.

“The car has not been vomited in, so they get that money and do whatever they’d like with it,” Masterson said.

Trevor Bushnell says he was a victim of a false vomit claim in Grand Rapids in July 2017. He and a friend took an Uber after getting drinks at a bar.

“I went and looked at my credit card statements and I had an additional $150 charge on there,” he said.

Bushnell emailed Uber asking for proof of the complaint, but only received what appeared to be an automated response and a picture of the alleged vomit. He denied he or his friend vomited in the car and disputed the fee, but Uber still refused to remove the $150 charge.

Bushnell no longer uses Uber.

“I don’t feel that it was handled well,” he said.

“We were inebriated and … (the driver) thought he could take advantage of us and we wouldn’t remember it,” he said. “It was late at night and he thought he could get away with one and he did this time.”

The BBB told 24 Hours News 8 that Uber riders from around the country have disputed false cleaning fees. It is possible to have a fee reversed, Masterson said, “but it unfortunately is not always an easy process.”

Uber provided this statement to 24 Hour News 8 Monday:

“Participating in fraudulent activity of any kind is a clear violation of our Community Guidelines. We are constantly evaluating our processes and technology related to these claims and will take appropriate action whenever fraud may be detected. If a rider sees any incorrect charges, they should report it to us immediately. The vast majority of cleaning fee reports are legitimately the result of someone making a mess in the car. In the instances where we find a confirmed case of fraud, we take appropriate action including removing the driver from the app. Uber is always evaluating its customer service processes and looking for ways to better serve our riders and drivers. We recognize there are challenges for our support teams to look into these types of situations and so we are enhancing our internal processes and investing in additional resources when investigating cleaning fee claims.

Uber has an “F” rating from the BBB due to the amount of complaints received and the company’s delayed or lack of response.

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