The Department of Consumer Affairs has directed all ride-hailing companies to become convergence partner in the National Consumer Helpline, to enable better grievance redressal for consumers and also compliance with Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and E-commerce Rules, 2020.
The direction was given during a meeting chaired by Secretary DoCA, Shri Rohit Kumar Singh with major online ride-hailing platforms, to discuss major issues which affect consumers in this sector.
Furthermore, all online ride-hailing platforms were advised to respond to the concerns of commuters with utmost priority and take remedial steps to ensure adequate protection of consumer rights.
The meeting was attended by major ride hailing platforms including Ola, Uber, Rapido, Meru Cabs and Jugnoo.
Ms. Nidhi Khare, Additional Secretary, Mr. Anupam Mishra, Joint Secretary and Mr. Vineet Mathur, Joint Secretary, also attended the meeting.
Ms. Nidhi Khare, Additional Secretary, highlighted major issues which affect consumers while availing services through these platforms. Major categories of consumer grievances as per the National Consumer Helpline (NCH) were highlighted during the meeting. As per the data received from NCH, deficiency in services occupied 56% of the overall grievances during the period 01.04.2021 to 01.05.2022.
The major grievances highlighted during the meeting were:
Deficiency in service
- Lack of proper response from customer support
- Pre-ticked boxes including add-on services such as insurance with the ride charges, without obtaining consent by explicit and affirmative action.
- Driver refusing to take payment by online mode and insisting for cash only.
- Higher amount charged despite going on the same route previously at a lesser charge
- Unprofessional driver behaviour
- Driver refusing to switch on AC when the consumer is promised AC ride on the app.
Inaccessible customer support
- No customer care number is provided on the platform.
- No details of grievance officer is mentioned on the platform to which consumers can address their grievance.
- Automated pre-written support message is given to consumers without redressing the grievance.
Unreasonable levy of cancellation charges
- User is not shown the amount of time within which cancelling a ride is permitted.
- Cancellation Charges are variable and inconsistent.
- Amount of cancellation charge is not displayed prominently on the platform before booking the ride.
- Drivers, not willing to take the ride and forcing users to cancel the ride, which entails undue cancellation charges to be borne by the consumer
Fairness of the algorithms that calculates the charges for the user
- If it is learnt that in case someone is using the OTA services consistently for going from point A to point B, the charges for him may be higher than somebody who is using it between the same two locations for the first time.
- Users are not shown the algorithm or method used by the company to charge different fares for the same route from two individuals.
- Due to this, users are forced to take rides at arbitrary fares which are much higher than what is charged ordinarily for the same route
It may be mentioned that grievances registered on NCH are at a nascent stage as not all consumers register their grievance on NCH.
During the interactions, the companies claimed to have a robust mechanism of redressal of consumer grievances. They however assured that concerns raised in the meeting will be duly taken into consideration. As regards the cancellation charges, they stated that it is levied to compensate the drivers for efforts made towards fulfilling the order.