India Finance News

Govt warns app cabs taking users for ride – Times of India

NEW DELHI: The consumer affairs ministry on Tuesday warned of strict action against online cab aggregators if they fail to address rising consumer complaints and put an end to unfair trade practices such as levying inconsistent cancellation charges, insurance and Covid-19 charges for every ride without explicit consent of customers.
TOI has learnt that one of the major aggregators disclosed to the ministry officials that out of all cancellations, in more than 30% cases, the drivers force customers to cancel the ride. The company further revealed that it arrived at this conclusion after monitoring the frequency of calls between the customer and drivers once bookings were done, sources said.
The sources said they have been receiving a large number of complaints of drivers refusing to take passengers and insisting on cancellation of ride. “Customers end up paying the cancellation charges for no fault of theirs,” a source added.
During a meeting with Uber, Ola, Meru Cabs, Rapido and Jugnoo, the ministry officials said that large number of consumer complaints against such aggregators were with regard to deficiency in services — it was in the range of 53% to 61% of the overall number of grievances, against the three major players, during the past 13 months.
Citing data from the National Consumer Helpline, the officials said non-refund of paid amount and slapping unauthorised charges were the two other major grievances of consumers. They told the aggregators that these were just the “tip of the iceberg”.
“We told them about the rising consumer complaints. We gave them the statistics also. We have asked them to improve their system and redress consumer complaints, else the competent authority will take strict action,” Union consumer affairs secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said after the meeting. Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) chief commissioner Nidhi Khare said the cab aggregators should immediately come out with solutions.
In a statement, the ministry said the aggregators have assured that they will look into all the concerns. With regard to cancellation charges, they have said it is levied to “compensate the drivers” for travelling around 2-3km once booking is done.
Sources said, the ministry also flagged to the aggregators that they do not reveal the algorithm or method they use to charge different fares for the same route from two individuals. “Due to this, users are forced to take rides at arbitrary fares,” the ministry said. It also informed them that since the aggregators are covered under the E-commerce Rules, they must have a designated grievances redressal officers and 24×7 helpline number.
Nitish Bhushan, head of central operations at Uber India and South Asia, said, “We are engaged with the Department of Consumer Affairs and … appreciate the feedback provided by them. We are committed to raising the bar — for ourselves, our industry, and most importantly for the people who use our services.”

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