Uber Runs Into Big Trouble in Sydney Accused of price-gouging in hostage crisis amid new legal trouble in France By Matt Cantor, Newser User Posted Dec 15, 2014 1:01 PM CST 17 comments Comments A driver is seen on his UberPOP application on his smartphone in his car in Paris, Friday, Dec. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Bastien Inzaurralde) (Newser) – Uber ran smack dab into trouble today amid the somewhat unlikely backdrop of Sydney's hostage crisis: The company's rates quadrupled, automatically soaring because, as users of Uber's app were told, "demand is off the charts." Mashable reported on the issue, and Uber subsequently made all rides near the crisis in Sydney's Central Business District free, offering a refund to those who'd already paid. "We are all concerned with the events happening in Sydney," a rep said. "Uber Sydney will be providing free rides out of the CBD to help Sydneysiders get home safely." But the damage appears done, with a Twitter uproar in the works and headlines such as one from Quartz deriding its "idiotic response to Sydney’s hostage crisis." Meanwhile, legal woes continue for Uber, which is set to be banned in France—after already suffering bans in Spain, Thailand, and the Netherlands, the New York Times reports. The move follows a court decision in October which, an Interior Ministry spokesman says, "well demonstrated the illegal nature of the service." The government, he notes, aims for "better regulating the profession to avoid unfair competition." After the ban starts in January, violators could face two years in jail along with fines nearing $400,000.