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Ola Cab Driver Demanded Rs 5194 For Rs 730 Ride. Why?

Bengaluru, January 25, 2024: A shocking incident came to know recently where an Ola cab driver demanded a customer Rs 5,000 for a ride that was originally displayed as Rs 730 on the app. This highlights underlying issues with transparency and customer support in ride hailing apps that need to be improved.

Anurag Kumar Singh, a college student living in Bengaluru, had arrived at the Kempegowda Airport from Kolkata. He booked an Ola mini cab through the app, which showed a fare estimate of Rs 730. But when he reached his destination in Mathikere, the driver demanded Rs 5,194 instead.

It turned out that Anurag’s booked ride had been canceled without his knowledge midway through the trip. He was essentially traveling without an official booking, which allowed the driver to charge any amount he wanted.

“The original booking showed Rs 730. But when we reached, the driver showed me his phone and the charge was Rs 5,194! I was shocked. Even if I traveled all around Bengaluru, it wouldn’t cost more than Rs 5,000,” said Anurag.

As Anurag habitually takes screenshots of ride bookings, he had proof of the original Rs 730 fare displayed. He reported this major fare discrepancy to Ola’s customer support immediately. But despite multiple complaints, Ola has not responded or taken any action so far.

With the help of his neighbors, Anurag negotiated the fare down to Rs 1,600. But he had to pay over twice the original amount due to no fault of his own.

Incident Highlights Serious Gaps In The Ride System

  • Lack of transparency: The final billed amount should match the estimated fare shown at booking time. But cancellations can happen without the passenger’s knowledge. This allows drivers to charge arbitrarily higher fares.
  • Poor complaint resolution: Despite clear proof and repeated complaints, Ola did not address the fare difference or respond promptly. Lack of robust customer support leaves passengers helpless.
  • Need for app improvements: To prevent cancellations without consent, ride-hailing apps should have features like requiring OTP confirmation before any cancellations mid-trip.
  • Driver education: Drivers should be informed not to charge higher than the fare shown on their app screen. Strict action must be taken against violations.

Expert Comments

Consumer advocacy groups expressed concern about this incident. “Ride-hailing apps must increase transparency in their systems and fare calculations. Customers should have easy access to grievance redressal mechanisms,” said Swathi Raman, President of Citizens For Justice.

Technology experts also highlighted the need for app-level changes. “Mid-trip cancellations without consent are a loophole that can be easily misused. Requiring an OTP before any cancellations could prevent this,” said Ravi Khanna, Lead Engineer at Techila Mobility Solutions.

Passenger Recommendations

To avoid being overcharged, passengers should take some precautions when using ride hailing services

  • Take screenshots of booking details like cab type, fare estimate, driver details etc. Screenshot proves case in disputes.
  • Note the license plate number of the allocated cab before entering, to verify identity.
  • Avoid paying in cash. Use in-app digital payments to have an exact record of the billed amount.
  • Report any discrepancies in fare amounts, long unilateral delays, or other issues immediately to customer support. Follow up regularly if the response is inadequate.

The responsibility is on ride hailing companies to increase transparency in their systems and applications, customer support, and take action against drivers who overcharge customers. With ride hailing projected to grow into a $15 billion market in India by 2024 passenger trust should be a priority.

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