Ola, Uber receives a warning from the Center; deficiency issues in services, customer support raised for all carpooling platforms
All online ridesharing platforms have been urged to respond to commuters with the highest priority and to take corrective action to ensure adequate protection of consumer rights.
Representative image. Reuters
The Department of Consumer Affairs has ordered all ride-sharing companies to become a convergence partner of the National Consumer Helpline, to enable better complaints handling for consumers and also compliance with the 2019 law on consumer protection and the 2020 e-commerce rules.
The direction was given in a meeting chaired by DoCA Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh with major online ridesharing platforms to discuss key issues affecting consumers in this sector.
In addition, all online ridesharing platforms have been urged to address commuter concerns with the highest priority and to take corrective action to ensure adequate protection of consumer rights.
The meeting was attended by major ridesharing platforms including Ola, Uber, Rapido, Meru Cabs and Jugnoo.
Nidhi Khare, Additional Secretary, Anupam Mishra, Co-Secretary and Vineet Mathur, Co-Secretary also attended the meeting.
Nidhi Khare highlighted the major issues that affect consumers while enjoying services through these platforms. The main categories of consumer grievances according to the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) were highlighted during the meeting. According to data received from NCH, lack of services occupied 56% of all complaints during the period from 01.04.2021 to 01.05.2022.
The main grievances highlighted during the meeting were:
- Lack of appropriate response from customer support
- Pre-checked boxes including additional services such as insurance with travel costs, without obtaining consent through explicit and affirmative action.
- Driver refusing to accept payment by online mode and insisting on cash only.
- Higher amount charged despite same route previously at lower cost
- Unprofessional driver behavior
- The driver refuses to turn on the AC while the consumer is promised an AC ride on the app.
Unreachable customer support
- No customer service number is provided on the platform.
- No details of the Complaints Officer are mentioned on the platform to which consumers can submit their complaints.
- An automated pre-written support message is given to consumers without fixing the grievance.
Unreasonable levy of cancellation fees
- The user does not see the time limit within which the cancellation of a trip is allowed.
- Cancellation fees are variable and inconsistent.
- The amount of the cancellation fee is not displayed prominently on the platform before booking the journey.
- Drivers, not wanting to make the journey and forcing users to cancel the journey, resulting in undue cancellation fees being charged to the consumer.
Fairness of algorithms that calculate fees for the user
- If it is learned that in case someone uses OTA services consistently to get from point A to point B, the charges for him may be higher than someone using it between the same two places for the first time.
- Users do not see the algorithm or method used by the company to charge different fares for the same route to two people.
- Because of this, users are forced to make trips at arbitrary fares which are much higher than what is normally charged for the same route.
During the interactions, the companies claimed to have a robust consumer grievance redress mechanism. However, they assured that the concerns raised during the meeting will be duly taken into consideration. Regarding cancellation fees, they stated that they are levied to compensate the drivers for the efforts made to fulfill the order.
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