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One of Uber's rivals is offering customers surge pricing refunds

Gett's 'Surge Sucks' campaign gifts free rides to spurned Uber customers

courtesy of Gett

An Uber rival is literally giving away free rides to compete with Travis Kalanick's $51 billion behemoth. London-based Gett is offering New Yorkers free rides equal to what they pay Uber in surge pricing. Naturally, they call this promotional event "Surge Sucks."

To participate, customers need to sign up at SurgeSucks.com and then forward their Uber surge receipts to Gett, which will then send the customer a credit equal to the total surge amount. Credits will be rounded up to the nearest $5 increment (e.g. $80.64 in surge fees will equate $85 in Gett credit), and riders are welcome to submit multiple surge receipts from either Uber or Lyft, up to a cumulative total of $100. One "lucky" rider who paid the most in surge pricing to Uber will receive a cash prize of $1,000.

Gett is banking on an Uber backlash to boost its bottom end

To compete with Uber, Gett knows it has to make it rain promos on its customers, while offering reliable black car service at competitive rates — the latter of which some critics say it does not do. It also knows it needs to throw a spotlight on Uber's Achilles heel, its policy of increasing fares during periods of high demand. Uber argues surge pricing helps ensure more cabs are available during periods of peak demand like bad weather or holidays by encouraging more drivers to hit the road. And customers are given plenty of warning before being charged surge prices.

But critics say surge pricing punishes consumers for seeking a ride when they need it the most. Recent research suggests that surge pricing may not lead to a drove of drivers hitting the roads as Uber says it does. And some cities are considering capping surge prices so as not to hit riders so hard in their pocketbooks. A bill in the New York City Council would prevent Uber from charging more than 100 percent the normal fare during high-demand periods.

Gett's CEO Shahar Waiser said he hopes the promo will help position his company as the "surge-free alternative to Uber." Just look at its flat rate policy: UberPool offers New York customers a $10 flat-rate for a shared ride anywhere in Manhattan below 96th Street. Gett also offers a $10 flat rate, but customers don't have to share and the pickup zone is extended to 110th Street. And with billboards and bus stop ads that read "The competition, whom we shall not name, is uber ripping you off," it's clear Waiser is banking on an Uber backlash to boost his company's bottom end.

But it's unclear whether such a backlash will manifest. Uber has been winning all of its regulatory battles in the US. (Europe is a different story.) It has agreed to some sensible limits to its surge pricing policy. Meanwhile, drivers and users continue to flock to the platform.