If you don’t like how Uber applies a surge pricing model to help meet demand during busy times, well, it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
Bloomberg reports that Uber is trying to patent the act of surge pricing, which jacks up the price of a ride to help encourage more drivers to work when demand is exceeding supply.
The practice has angered many critics who say the technique is the equivalent to price gouging. It’s been a controversial topic and most recently came up in Sydney, when Uber was charging customers more than four times the normal rate during the hostage crisis on Monday before deciding to refund customers and offer free rides following backlash on social media.
It was a swift decision by Uber, which has dealt with similar situations during emergencies like Hurricane Sandy. After that particular event, Uber met with New York’s attorney general and in July agreed to cap its surge prices during emergencies and natural disasters. It also vowed to apply the same process to its service across the U.S.
“This policy intends to strike the careful balance between the goal of transportation availability with community expectations of affordability during disasters,” CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a blog post.
Uber has consistently defended the surge pricing practice with a basic economics argument, noting that it simply helps supply meet high demand. Benchmark Capital partner and Uber investor Bill Gurley offered a detailed analysis in March for why Uber’s model differs from that used by airlines and hotels.
Lyft, Uber’s main competitor, applies a similar model with its “Primetime” feature that increases rates when more people are requesting rides.
Bloomberg notes that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected 10 of Uber’s patent applications, but is still considering the patent related to surge pricing.