Q. I was on a 10-minute Lyft ride to my friend’s apartment in Toronto today. Shortly after I arrived, I received a notification from Lyft that it was charging me $150 for damage to the car.
Lyft sent me pictures of the back seat of a Honda Accord with mud stains on the floor. I do not recognize the photos, and I’m not even sure if it was the same car I was in.
The photos don’t have any metadata, so I don’t know when they were taken. I told Lyft they could not use these photos as proof without any metadata.
The car was clean when I left it. I shut the door properly and took everything I brought with me. I did not leave any mud stains in the car.
I appealed this to Lyft, but it closed my case and has insisted that I pay $150 for damages. Can you help me?
DEBBIE KIM, Toronto
A. I’m sorry Lyft charged you for damage to one of its cars. When a ridesharing company bills you for damage, it should send ample documentation, including photos with metadata, to substantiate its claim. Lyft didn’t do that.
In fact, your case is different from other Lyft cases. When I reviewed the photos and pressed you for details on the ride, you admitted that you didn’t even recognize the back seat of your ride. In other words, someone was trying to charge you $150 for damage to a different vehicle.
Lyft could not make a compelling case that you had tracked mud through your vehicle. (And, even if it had, the mud stains wouldn’t have cost $150 to clean.) This just seemed like an arbitrary charge for unsubstantiated damages.
My advice? Take “before” and “after” photos of the back seat of your Lyft ride. Make sure your phone or camera can record metadata — specifically time and location — so that you can show Lyft the images if it asks.
You also could have appealed to one of Lyft’s executives. I list their contact information on my consumer advocacy site, www.elliott.org. I contacted Lyft on your behalf. A representative from Lyft’s escalation team reached out to you online.
“We cannot thank you enough for bringing these issues to our attention and completely understand your frustrations. Please know that we always strive to be fair to both riders and drivers involved in a damage claim,” he told you. “I have reviewed your inquiry and refunded the damage fee to your payment method used in the ride, which you should see in the next three to five business days.”
Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy (elliottadvocacy.org), a nonprofit organization that helps consumers solve their problems. E-mail him at email@example.com or get help by contacting him at elliottadvocacy.org/help.