Govt lens on charges levied, algo used by cab aggregators

NEW DELHI: Amid mounting consumer complaints, the Centre has asked cab and two-wheeler aggregators — Uber, Ola, Meru Cabs and Jugnoo — to come clean on the charges levied by them, including the algorithms used by them. Union consumer affairs secretary Rohit Singh has called a meeting next week to discuss a host of consumer issues, specially the algorithm used to calculate fares.

In a letter to the aggregators, including Uber, Singh has alleged that someone travelling between two destinations on a regular basis is charged higher than someone who rides between the same points for the first time. Besides, the government is also looking into the veracity of fares and their reasonability and cancellation charges, apart from the charges that are levied for additional services.

The meeting comes as commuters have been complaining about a spike in fares and arbitrariness of some of the levies, including the refusal of drivers to switch on the AC, citing the recent increase in oil and gas prices. Singh also pointed to an investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission after Uber allegedly displayed a misleading cancellation warning and informed passengers about a small fee despite there being a five-minute cancellation window.

The investigation estimated that nearly two million consumers had been misled. While Uber did not respond to TOI’s queries on Sunday, an Ola spokesperson said there is “no comment” from their end. Government officials said the difference in fare for first time and regular passengers was a major area of concern as it also involved their privacy.

“We want the companies to place the facts and policies in black and white so that consumers are aware. Any such acts would amount to unfair trade practice under the Consumer Protection Act and since millions of commuters are using these platforms there is a need to examine these issues in detail,” said an officer.