Michelle, who asked for her surname to be withheld, used the ride-sharing app last night at around 11pm after having a quiet dinner with a friend.
She was initially charged $12 for the nine-minute journey, and remembers having a “pleasant” chat with her driver.
But when she woke up this morning, she had an email waiting for her from Uber.
The email explained she had been charged a whopping $150 “cleaning fee” on top of her fare for a mess she “categorically” denies making.
The cash had already been automatically deducted from her PayPal account in the early hours of the morning.
When Michelle contacted Uber to dispute the fee and to demand answers, she was sent photos of the alleged mess and was told it was vomit.
According to Uber’s website, a $150 cleaning fee is charged for a “Level 4 major bodily fluid mess that requires cleaning between the windows, doors or air vents”.
But Michelle maintained she did not vomit or spill anything in the car.
She told news.com.au she recalled the trip perfectly and that she had a good rating on the app, having never encountered any trouble with drivers in the past, and that she didn’t notice any mess in the car at the time.
Michelle said the way the company had initially handled the situation had been “unethical”.
“I think it is poor practice. Uber is relying on images from drivers and we don’t know when they were taken,” she said.
“I think it’s fraudulent — it’s their word against yours. It is ridiculous.
“Are we turning into a world where we need to take photos of everything just to cover our own backs?
“I’m livid. I’m never using Uber again. I just want an apology and my money back.”
News.com.au contacted Uber, and after several hours the $150 fee was refunded.
An Uber spokesman said the company always tried to balance the rights of customers and drivers.
“When messes and spilt drinks happen, we believe driver-partners should be compensated for the cost of cleaning their car,” the spokesman said.
“However, fraudulent cleaning fee reports are unacceptable and we have a specific review process to proactively investigate individuals who try to take advantage of the system.
“After reviewing this incident, we have refunded this rider’s cleaning fee.”
Michelle welcomed the refund, but urged Uber customers to take a photograph of the inside of the car before leaving to make sure they weren’t charged unfairly.
She said she had spoken out about the incident to help others.
“I’m a very principled person and I’m certainly not shy about speaking up,” she said.
“If no one complains, nothing changes and by speaking up, I’m making people aware that this could potentially happen to them.
“You’ve got to speak your truth and follow through with things.”
Michelle is just the latest Uber customer to accuse the company of a $150 cleaning fee ‘scam’ in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, a Sydney couple were also charged the fee after travelling from the CBD to the North Shore.
After complaining about the charge, they were sent a photo of a white liquid with mysterious lumps spread on what looked like the floor of a vehicle — a mess they also claimed they didn’t make.
And it seems the problem is a global one, with a slew of similar cases reported in the media in the US.