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Couple claims they were fraudulently charged $150 cleaning fee by Uber

RICHMOND, Va. -- A confusing start to an early morning Uber ride home this past Saturday ended positively for Crystal Drake and her boyfriend John McGann.

"He couldn't figure out how to put that in the GPS," Drake said about their driver.  Still, she said "we gave him a five star rating."

But, Drake says she now regrets that top notch rating after finding that Uber charged her a $150 cleaning fee.

"We thought it was an error with Uber and gave them the benefit of the doubt," McGann said.

Crystal Drake and her boyfriend John McGann

But, after contacting Uber, the couple learned the company assessed the fee because the driver said the couple left a mess in the car.

Uber provided Drake with a photo of the alleged mess that resembles vomit.

"It was like foamy with dry stuff on top," Drake said.

Drake and McGann swear they did not bring any food or drink into the car and neither of them vomited.

"They said they have proof that it was from our ride, and I said I would like to see proof that it's matched to my trip," Drake said.

McGann said that proof never arrived.

He said they tried to find the metadata behind the photo Uber sent to find proof of what time the driver took it, but there isn't any.

"It could have been a rider after us," McGann said.

CBS 6 found examples of folks alleging the same issue from around the country with riders accusing their drivers of fraudulently charging the cleaning fee.

"They definitely need a better system in place than what they have," McGann said.

According to the Uber app, riders are responsible for vehicle damage caused by incidents such as vomiting or food, and the fees are paid in full to the drivers.

Now Drake has a message for other Uber riders.

"My advice for other people would be to take a video every time you get out of your Uber," Drake said.

CBS 6 reached out to Uber about the incident.

A spokesperson said after further review they decided to completely refund Drake the fee.

They said they apologize for any inconvenience and are investigating the matter.

"Drivers must submit photos of the mess/damage shortly after the ride and a description of what happened. Our 24/7 customer service team reviews each claim (to prevent fraud, we do not detail all the methods used to determine the validity of cleaning fee claim).

We recommend that riders report issues to us through the app so that we can investigate the matter. When disputing a cleaning fee claim, riders should be as detailed as possible in their description of events (for example, where you sat in the car relative to where the damage is). If fraud is determined, we will take the appropriate action which can include removing a driver's access to the app."

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