Can you help me with this $80 cleaning charge from Lyft?

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By Christopher Elliott

Svetlana Milina receives a surprise $80 cleaning bill from Lyft after a seven-minute ride. But Lyft won’t tell her what she did to deserve it. 

Question

I recently took a seven-minute ride on a Lyft in New York City. Shortly afterward, I received a text and email that there was damage to the car and my credit card would be charged $80.  

Lyft refused to provide any evidence of any damage caused by me and only sent a form letter in response to my questions. I repeatedly asked for additional information or any evidence of damage. 

The ride took only a few minutes, and I didn’t do anything except just sit in the back of the car. Lyft stated in the chat that they provided pictures. But they didn’t send any pictures. They refused to provide any additional information about the damage or even a phone contact to discuss this. I would like these charges and the claim to be reversed. Can you help me? — Svetlana Milina, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Answer

Lyft should not charge you a dime unless it can prove you damaged the car. Lyft requires its drivers to send at least three photos of the damage when they file a claim. And the company should have shared those pictures with you. 

Lyft also requires its drivers to describe what happened, and it needed to share that with you, too. I asked you to share the paper trail of correspondence between you and Lyft, and it shows that Lyft just kept repeating that the claim was valid. That’s not good enough. (Related: Lyft surprised me with a $150 cleaning charge. Is that allowed?)

Lyft should have offered some way to appeal this damage claim, but it didn’t. Instead, it sent a series of maddening responses. Here’s a typical one:

“Svetlana, per our terms of service, we charge a damage fee to help drivers repair and clean affected areas of their vehicle, once drivers provide evidence,” one of them read. “We re-opened your case and after extensive review of the information provided by both you and the driver, no adjustments will be made to this claim.” (Related: Lyft charged me $150 for mud stains in a car. But I didn’t do it!)

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Don’t worry, I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of Lyft’s executives on my consumer advocacy website Elliott.org. A brief, polite email to one of them might have helped. I also have a free guide to advocating your own case that might have helped you convince Lyft to take a closer look at your case.

It turns out your driver had sent them photos of muddy footprints in a car. Your seven-minute ride had taken place on a sunny day. I contacted Lyft on your behalf. “Our customer team reached out to Svetlana and handled the matter and provided a refund,” a representative told me. 

Lyft refunded your money and told you it would treat the claim by your driver as fraudulent. 

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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