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Delhi gov to HC: Zero-tolerance of Ola, Uber 'exploiting' consumers (who voluntarily click on algorithmic surge prices during odd-even)

The city government has informed the Delhi high court that it was taking strict action against app-based taxi aggregators, including Ola and Uber, for allegedly overcharging and arbitrarily applying surge rates during the odd-even traffic scheme.

Filing an affidavit before Justice JR Midha, the Delhi government’s transport department said it was in the process of preparing rules to regulate/monitor the app-based aggregators and to prevent uneconomical competitions among the license/permit holders.

“The chief minister has taken immediate cognizance of the situation by making a public statement warning the taxi aggregators of strict action, including permit cancellation and impounding of vehicles in case they charge rates more than the government prescribed rates,” said the affidavit made public on Saturday.

It said the government was committed to a “zero-tolerance policy” on exploitation of the common citizens of Delhi.

It said the department has issued about 119 challans so far against the taxi operators and most of these taxis were attached with the unlicensed aggregators.

In its affidavit, the government said that under the City Taxi Scheme 2015 notified in August last year, the licensee shall charge fare as prescribed by the transport department from time to time and as such there is no provision for taking any kind of “peak time charge” or “surge prices”.

The government’s reply came on a plea filed by Magic Sewa Pvt. Ltd., a radio taxi service operator, claiming that operators like Ola and Uber were rampantly flouting the government’s notification fixing the fares of economy taxis at Rs 12.5 per km, as they were actually charging Rs 40-50 per km in the name of surge pricing.

Advocate Pranav Sachdeva, appearing for Magic Sewa, told the court that the Delhi government has completely failed to take any action against these operators despite repeated complaints made by the petitioner.

In its response, filed after the high court’s direction, the government said “the alleged unlicensed aggregators, Ola and Uber are operating illegally as their applications for license were rejected by the transport department”.

“Not only are the app-based companies unlicensed, but they are also not allowed to charge more than prescribed rates of fare in the shape of ‘surge price’ or ‘peak time charge’ and punitive actions are being taken against violators by the enforcement teams of the department and the Delhi traffic police is also being requested to stop the illegal operations by these app based operators,” it added.

The Delhi transport department has issued a helpline number -- 011-42400400 -- aimed at bringing overcharging drivers to book, warning of legal consequences, including cancellation of permits and impounding of vehicles, said the affidavit.

It said any complaint related to overcharging could be made on the helpline number along with a copy of the bill and the taxi number.

Under the city taxi scheme, the aggregators are allowed to seek license and they can run their business in the city. However, app-based unlicensed operators have not applied under the scheme till date, said the government.

“The app-based unlicensed taxi services operators are abusing the process of law to delay seeking the licenses, as the same would make them liable to follow the rules and regulations formulated as per the city taxi scheme and they are not willing to abide by the same,” the affidavit stated.

The court would hear the case on 25 April.

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