A Toronto woman who received a bill from Lyft for $80 worth of damage to a vehicle is raising questions about the company’s investigative process for verifying the claim brought forward.
“They just kind of said, ‘Case closed, this is what happened, we got your information from the driver, we know his anecdotal experience and that’s it,’ ” Jamie Pandit told CityNews in an interview on Thursday.
She said she requested a Lyft trip on March 9 to get home from a podcast interview. During the eight-minute trip, Pandit said there wasn’t much interaction with the driver. However, she subsequently received a note from the company.
“I got an email saying that there was some sort of issue in the car, maybe alcohol use or something spilled and I was obviously confused because I had nothing on me,” Pandit said, noting she tried to get help through the in-app support system without luck.
Eventually, she said she received an email with two pictures of the damage she was alleged to have caused.
“The pictures look like somebody like punched the car or had a sharp object. I don’t know how I could have done that while I was inside the car the whole time and left my ride as quickly as possible to get home,” Pandit said.
“How could this be fixed with $80 on a door? I’m sure this would have cost hundreds of dollars to fix. Where did that money come from?”
She said the matter raised questions about the authenticity of the photos and said she’s frustrated that she wasn’t consulted as part of a broader investigation by Lyft.
“As a transgender woman who is often dismissed for situations when I’m sharing my experiences, it just really made me feel bad about speaking up at all, especially from a large corporation,” Pandit said.
As part of that frustration, she posted the story on her social media accounts and heard from others who expressed their support. Some of those who commented said they experienced similar situations.
CityNews contacted Lyft multiple times since Wednesday to ask about the incident described by Pandit. The company issued a brief statement in response to the concerns Friday afternoon.
“We have reached out directly to [Jamie] Pandit and have issued a refund. Thank you for bringing this to our attention,” Gabriela Condarco-Quesada wrote.
However, questions surrounding what happened in Pandit’s case, the circumstances leading to the charge and the company’s investigative response went unanswered.
CityNews forwarded the details provided by Pandit to two lawyers not affiliated with either side to get their take on what happened.
“This is the first I’ve ever seen a claim like this,” Leeza Pece, an associate with Jones Kopp Litigation Partners LLP who specializes in insurance-related litigation, said in response.
She noted in Lyft’s terms of service, riders agree to be charged up to $250 at the company’s discretion if the driver reports damage was found. Pece said there aren’t too many options to avoid a similar situation.
“My first thought would be you have the avenue of small claims court. The damage was only $80, so I mean are you really going to go through the process of taking someone to small claims court?”
Christopher Achkar, the owner of Achkar Law, echoed Pece’s comments.
“The fact that the charges are fairly low makes it difficult to really push back sometimes,” he said, calling it a “buyers beware” situation.
Achkar went on to encourage people to write down all the information they remember should a dispute arise, keep screenshots of electronic correspondence and keep all the details in a centralized place.
Meanwhile, Pandit told CityNews Friday afternoon that she was surprised to have received the refund, but said the incident still leaves many unanswered questions. She said she wants others to be aware of what happened.
“It’s not fair what happened and I don’t want this to keep happening for other people,” Pandit said in her original interview.
“I do want them to have processes in place where they’re actually going to investigate the different situations that could happen in a Lyft ride.”