In February, Charlie Rogers signed up for LimePod, the new car-sharing service in Seattle from the company famous for the Lime bicycles scattered across town.
Based on the “$1 to start” messaging on LimePod cars, Rogers expected his first ride to cost $1. He was surprised to later see an email from Lime notifying him that a $15 fee was charged to his account to pull his driving record.
The fee is standard for Lime and other car-sharing companies. Lime reimburses riders with a $15 credit on their accounts.
But Rogers told GeekWire he felt it was a “bait and switch” because the fee wasn’t disclosed.
“The email and vehicle advertising should read ‘$15 to start,’” he said. “I know that may not drive demand the way they want to but it’s the truth. They have a good product and there’s no reason to use deceptive marketing.”
San Francisco-based Lime is a relatively young startup but already its valuation has soared to $2.4 billion. The company has thousands of shared bicycles and scooters in more than 100 cities across the globe. In December, Lime launched its car-sharing service LimePod in Seattle, to take on existing offerings from Car2Go and ReachNow.
Rogers tried unsuccessfully to get a refund from Lime for the $15 charge. That’s when he took the issue to the Washington State Attorney General’s office.
The AG contacted Lime, raising Rogers’ concern about the allegedly hidden fee.
“We inform our community of the $15 background check fee on our website just above the LimePod FAQ,” Lime said, adding, “we also inform our users through our User Agreement as well as through in App messaging that a motor vehicle background check will be performed in connection with their use of LimePod.”
Related: We tested Lime’s new car-sharing service, LimePod, that will take on BMW and Daimler in Seattle
However, Lime said that for a limited time some users didn’t receive the in-app notification about the $15 fee “due to an error in the way messages surfaced in the Lime App.”
The company said affected users were notified and refunded the $15. Despite the refund, Rogers still takes issue with Lime’s messaging.
“I still feel like the “$1 to start” is false advertising, but now that’s up to the discretion of the AG office if they want to push that issue,” he said.
The Attorney General’s office told Rogers it was closing the complaint now that Lime is issuing refunds.
Rogers says he will continue to use the service because his home in Seattle’s Admiral neighborhood is underserved by transit.
His story highlights the gaps in transportation that private companies like Lime are attempting to fill.
It also shows that even if riders don’t like the terms, micro-mobility services are sometimes their only good option. Rogers said he has to take three buses for up to two hours to get home at night.
“A Lyft or Uber costs $20 [plus] but if I can use a car share and drive myself it’s $10,” he said.
Update: Lime spokesperson Emma Green told GeekWire the company is “committed to transparency with our riders and community partners, and we take great pride in providing the best possible customer service to our community.” She noted that the issue was temporary and has been resolved.