Uber flunked the Better Business Bureau test — and the New York Times said it was in part because of the company’s controversial surge pricing.
But Uber’s big, fat “F” grade isn’t about its sneaky pricing. It’s about its lack of response to customer complaints, a Better Business Bureau spokeswoman said Monday.
“A number of the complaints to BBB were about surge pricing. However, the F rating is not directly related to the nature of the complaints but rather to the lack of response from the company,” BBB spokeswoman Katherine Hutt wrote in a blog post.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Uber’s surge pricing and billing practices aren’t shady: Almost half of the 110 complaints on the BBB’s page on Uber relate to billing.
But it does perpetuate a misleading idea — that a bureaucratic-sounding entity stamped Uber as a capital-B bad business. Instead, it’s an independent ratings agency (one that benefits from an official-ish name among those who aren’t familiar with it) that thinks Uber hasn’t been responsive enough to complaints — specifically, complaints filed with them.
It’d be great if the Better Business Bureau evaluated Uber on its bankrupting surge pricing, its leaky background checks, its wimpy driver training, and its pathological need to deny liability in accidents and attacks. But the BBB’s 16-point rating system doesn’t include anything like that. Instead, businesses have their grades lowered if, for example, the BBB doesn’t have information on them in their files, or if they don’t respond to complaints customers filed to the BBB.
For Uber, the two factors that earned it an F were “Length of time business has been operating,” and “Failure to respond to 39 complaints filed against business.” For rival Lyft, which also earned an F, the only listed factor was “Failure to respond to 3 complaints filed against business.” Yellow Cab, San Francisco’s biggest cab company, earned an F for failing to respond to two complaints. Zipcar, an F for ignoring nine complaints. The list goes on.
Meanwhile, the idea that Uber flunked because of its surge pricing is alive and well on the quick-hit news cycle of the Internet: “Uber’s surge pricing earns it an ‘F’ from Better Business Bureau,” “Complaints About Uber Surge Pricing Caused The Better Business Bureau To Give The Company An ‘F’,” “Surge-Pricing Earns Uber An ‘F’ From Better Business Bureau.”
Hutt also wrote that Uber has a scheduled meeting with BBB Golden Gate, the independent local BBB arm for San Francisco, to discuss responding to customer complaints.
Some are already wary of the BBB’s ratings because one branch was found to barter good BBB grades with paying membership dues. But the fact that Uber is hardly the only one to land an F — and only because it ignored the BBB — means a failing grade rarely means what consumers think it does.
Follow Ellen Huet on Twitter at @ellenhuet.
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