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South Florida Uber drivers continue to file false charges against users

More people claim they've been charged for messes they didn't make

MIAMI – South Florida residents who use Uber claim the popular ride-sharing program continues to game the system by charging fees for messes they never made.

Local 10 News first highlighted the fraud fees in July when a couple was charged $150 by an Uber driver who claimed they threw up in his car on the way home from Miami International Airport. The company later removed the charges and suspended the driver.

But the charges keep coming, and more people are stepping forward to complain.

Samantha Owens, a bartender who uses Uber to commute from her home to her job in Oakland Park, said she was also charged a $150 cleaning fee for a ride she took in September with her daughter.

"I was dumbfounded because I couldn't believe somebody would actually do that," Owens said. 

Owens' driver, identified as Robert, submitted the claim, saying she threw up in the car. But when pictures showed vomit in the front seat and not in the back, where she was seated, Owens knew something was up.

"It's a scam," Owens said. "I feel like I'm an easy target. I work at a bar. I'm getting picked up at 2 a.m. To Uber, it's going to look bad."

Christine Tellez said her mother-in-law faced the same problem after a short ride on Miami Beach with her 1-year-old daughter.

"I got an email from Uber in the morning saying we've recalculated your fee based on urine on the seat," Tellez said.

The driver had submitted a picture of a wet seat, attempting to justify the $150 cleaning fee. Tellez claims the wet seat was not caused by her family.

"It's very frustrating," Tellez said. "I think Uber needs to investigate more."

Both Owens and Tellez said they were never able to contact anyone with Uber. 

The company eventually refunded Owens' charges after she went to a help desk for drivers. After Local 10 spoke with Uber, Tellez also received her money back.

Tellez's driver, Edwin Ayerdis Castellon, claimed not to remember the incident, but said clean-up charges are sometimes necessary.

"Well, it happens in some situations where somebody throws up or does a mess," Castellon said.

Castellon was surprised when told that Uber had refunded Tellez's money for the false charges.

Despite multiple requests, Uber refused an on-camera interview about the fake fees, but in a statement, acknowledged that they are a problem in South Florida.

"We recognize there are challenges for our support teams to look into these types of situations, so we are enhancing our internal processes and investing in additional resources when investigating cleaning fee claims," the company said through a representative.

Uber said Castellon has been permanently removed for their app, along with the driver from the incident over the summer. The driver named Robert is still under investigation.

About the Author:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.