A photo illustration shows the Uber app logo displayed on a mobile telephone, as it is held up for a posed photograph in central London, Britain October 28, 2016. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters
The Uber app logo on a mobile telephone. Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville

The Indian government has warned online cab aggregators after numerous complaints from customers. The Consumer Affairs Ministry met representatives of leading players such as Uber, Ola, Meru and private taxi operators and told them to put in place a speedy grievances redressal system.

This was done after the ministry received numerous complaints about allegedly unfair trade practices by the platforms. Some of the most common complaints included cab drivers forcing consumers to cancel a trip and paying a penalty as the drivers did not want to accept the ride for their own reasons.

Consumers have also complained of long waiting periods, a lack of safety and driver misbehavior.

Some existing consumers also complained they were being charged high rates for a ride, while new users were being lured with lower charges for a trip over the same distance.

The government warned the cab aggregators that if they were unable to fix consumers’ problems, they would be penalized. It is also looking into how accurate and reasonable the fares charged are according to the destination as well as the cancellation charges.

The cab aggregators have 30 days to respond to the government and give answers to the questions raised by the Consumer Affairs Ministry. The Central Consumer Protection Authority is expected to come up with a draft advisory for online cab aggregators.

The authority will also ask ride-hailing platforms to showcase their algorithms related to ride cancellations and surge pricing, along with questions over other issues.

In November 2020, the federal government issued the Motor Vehicle Aggregator Guidelines. It had capped surge pricing at 1.5 times the base fare and introduced a cancellation penalty for drivers at 10% of the fare, capped at 100 rupees. However, most states are yet to put the rules into practice.

Meanwhile, Uber has responded to the Consumer Affairs Ministry announcement. Nitish Bhushan, the head of Central Operations, said: “We are engaged with the Department of Consumer Affairs and deeply appreciate the feedback provided by them and will continue to provide our inputs.”

Rising gasoline and diesel costs have hit the drivers hard. Cab drivers in Kolkata, Delhi and Bangalore started demanding higher fares to switch on air-conditioners as it led to higher fuel consumption. Both Uber and Ola increased fares last month in various cities to help drivers cope with high fuel costs.