An MBA student Amrit Rajveer booked a cab from TaxiforSure to make his travel easier and faster but little did he know that his ride was going to be one filled with fear. “First of all, the driver was late even though he was there already at the New Delhi Railway station. He kept me waiting for 10-15 minutes. I had hired the cab to go to Greater Noida and as I am not new to Delhi, I knew very well that he took the long way on purpose. This might not sound like a big deal because it is so common for cab drivers to work as per own wishes. But the real shock came when he pulled out his smartphone from his pocket, played the movie Mastizaade and positioned the phone on the speedometer. All through the way, the movie was on and he was least bothered about traffic. Obviously, any requests I made fell on deaf ears. I sat on my haunches all through the ride, fearing he might run into or run over someone. When I told him I am going to complain about this to his company, he said he doesn’t care,” Rajveer said, sharing his dramatic incident. The list of unsatisfied consumers in the city like Rajveer is long as the new app-based taxi services have earned severe criticism for their disregard to customer care. Some customers have even accusing them of down-right harassment.
“It is harassment when you charge thrice the actual amount, arrive late and refuse to pay any heed to a genuine request of a customer. I don’t know how these cab services aim to be successful with such ignorant attitude towards their customers,” said Rajveer. “We need these services because they are convenient, but not at the cost of our wallets. The surge charge that these taxi companies levy can range anywhere from 150% to 400% of the original price. The highest I had to pay to Uber was a 300% surge-charge in a case of emergency as I needed the ride immediately,” said Suraj Andrews, a pharmaceutical executive.
A company source at Ola explained what “surge charge” means. “The surge charge is the money that is charged above the actual metre cost i.e. though it is advertised that customers can travel at Rs 8 per/km, but the metre starts at a higher price. Then there are also additional charges like night time charges or waiting charges etc. that add on to form the surge charge. Since the driver of the taxi only gets a fixed percentage of the money he earns, the rest of the profit is owned by the company. The surge charge is calculated by the technology involved, not the driver,” he said. TaxiForSure was acquired by Ola in March 2015. There was no response to attempts by this reporter to contact TaxiForSure.
“Other than surge pricing, unprecedented cancellation of ride, too, often occurs. The drivers are not allowed to ask the destination from the customer, but they first enquire over the call and then if they don’t want to go, they simply refuse. Even the customer care services are not satisfactory,” said Prashanti Moktan, a regular user of app-based taxi services.
Kunal Lalani, president, Radio Taxi Association of India (RTAI), said,” Taxi services are a regulated product worldwide. Taxi services cannot be a variable product whose prices fluctuate depending on demand and supply or environment factors.” Taxi services like Mega, Easy, Meru, Gee, Chanson, Yo, Sky, RBTS, Fab and Star cabs are registered under the Association. “The taxi services that are part of RTAI are regulated and also operating with a transportation permit; hence, a maximum price is fixed for these cabs and they cannot charge more than that. So, customers don’t face similar problems of surged charge etc. with these taxi services,” said Lalani.
“The technology used by other taxi operators and us is the same. But because they claim to be a technology company and not a transportation service, they have managed to stay out of the ambit of regulations. This definitely needs to change. Attracting customers with low prices and then to con them in the name of surged charge is entirely wrong,” Lalani added.