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Uber briefly quadruples prices for rides out of hostage-crisis Sydney

"Surge pricing" may be a good business model for car service juggernaut Uber, but it can be terrible for public relations. As Australians were trying to leave Sydney's central business district on Monday, with a still-unfolding hostage situation and hundreds of police shutting down much of the district, Uber announced that it was increasing fares "to encourage more drivers to come online & pick up passengers in the area."

Prices rose to as much as four times normal levels, though, hitting a minimum rate of A$100 (US$82). The San Francisco–based company raises prices automatically to meet surging demand, but it is supposed to cap increases during public emergencies. With Uber quickly earning the wrath of the social media–connected smartphone users it relies on for business, the company reversed course after about an hour of online griping:

In unrelated news, France announced Monday that Uber will be banned in the country starting Jan. 1, 2015.