Asks them to become convergence partners in National Consumer Helpline

To ensure better grievance redressal, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) said it had directed all ride-hailing companies to become convergence partners in the National Consumer Helpline in compliance with the Consumer Protection Act, 2019 and E-commerce Rules, 2020. It also raised the issues faced by customers, including terms of deficiency in services, inaccessible customer support, unreasonable levy of cancellation charges and fairness in charging fares by ride-hailing platforms.

This direction was given during a meeting chaired by Secretary DoCA, Rohit Kumar Singh, with major online ride-hailing platforms, to discuss issues affecting consumers. The meeting was attended by major ride-hailing platforms, including Ola, Uber, Rapido, Meru Cabs and Jugnoo.

Commuters concerns

The Ministry has also asked online ride-hailing platforms to respond to the commuters’ concerns with “utmost priority” and take remedial steps to protect consumer rights. Based on the National Consumer Helpline data, the Ministry officials pointed out various key issues affecting consumers as per the complaints received. “As per the data received from NCH, the deficiency in services occupied 56 per cent of the overall grievances during the period 01.04.2021 to 01.05.2022 in this sector,” the official statement added.

Lack of proper response from customer support, charging for add-on services such as insurance without obtaining explicit consent, drivers refusing to take payment through online mode and unprofessional driver behaviour were among the major consumer concerns highlighted in the meeting by the Ministry officials.

Customer support

In terms of inaccessible customer support, the officials raised concerns regarding no customer care number being provided on the platforms, non-mentioning grievance officers, and automated pre-written support messages instead of grievance redressal.

The Ministry has also raised issues related to the “unreasonable levy of cancellation charges” by ride-hailing apps. “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,” was among the key issues discussed during the meeting, the statement added.

“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,” the Ministry officials added.

Claim of robust customer grievances mechanism

The companies that attended the meeting claimed to have a robust mechanism for customer grievances but assured that concerns raised during the meeting will be looked at. Ride-hailing apps during the meeting also claimed that the cancellation charges are levied to compensate the drivers for efforts made towards fulfilling the order, the statement added.

In a statement, Nitish Bhushan, Head of Central Operations, Uber India and South Asia, 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. We strive to be the platform of choice for riders and drivers alike and continue to invest in technology and customer support to deliver an excellent experience for them. We are committed to continually raising the bar – for ourselves, our industry, and most importantly for the people who use our services.”

Published on May 11, 2022