SYDNEY– Global rideshare giant Uber has been issued with a 26 million Australian dollar (about $19 million U.S.) fine after admitting that it breached Australian consumer law by making false or misleading statements.

Federal consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), announced on Tuesday that a warning message displayed between December 2017 and September 2021 on the Uber app misled consumers. 

“You may be charged a small fee since your driver is already on their way,” read the automated message despite users being within a free cancellation period offered by the U.S. rideshare service.

ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said more than 2 million Australians were shown the misleading cancellation warning before it was removed.

“Uber admits it misled Australian users for a number of years, and may have caused some of them to decide not to cancel their ride after receiving the cancellation warning, even though they were entitled to cancel free of charge under Uber’s own policy,” she said on Tuesday.

The commission also found that Uber was falsely displaying taxi fare estimates when prices were below the rideshare service.

“Digital platforms like Uber need to take adequate measures to monitor the accuracy of their algorithms and the accuracy of statements they make, which may affect what service consumers choose,” said Cass-Gottlieb. 

“This is particularly important as online businesses often carefully design their user interfaces to influence consumer behaviour,” she noted.

The ACCC and Uber have jointly agreed to seek orders from the Australian federal court as the rideshare giant is expected to pay the penalty once a date has been set. – Xinhua