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Odd-Even phase II: Uber, Ola withdraw surge price after govt warns of strong measures

Despite increase in frequency of Metro trains and more buses on roads, commuters have fallen back on hiring cabs.

Written by Pritha Chatterjee , Sarah Hafeez | New Delhi | Updated: April 20, 2016 7:46:03 am
People having the tough time to get the transport during Odd-Even Phase II in Delhi on April 18th 2016.Express photo by Ravi Kanojia. People having the tough time to get the transport during Odd-Even Phase II in Delhi on April 18th 2016. (Express photo by Ravi Kanojia)

Bringing relief to commuters, the Delhi government Monday directed the Transport department to cancel permits and impound commercial vehicles if they are found “overcharging”. The move comes in the wake of complaints by commuters of overcharging by app-based operators such as Ola and Uber.

Since its first phase, the odd-even road rationing scheme has heavily depended on cab services. Despite increase in frequency of Metro trains and more buses on roads, commuters have fallen back on hiring cabs.

On the first working day of the second phase of the odd-even scheme, commuters had to pay surge pricing of up to five times the normal fare while hiring cabs from Ola and Uber.

An increase in demand led to non-availability of cabs and subsequent surge pricing by operators, prompting the Delhi High Court to seek the government’s intervention in the matter Monday.

Following the government directive, Uber and Ola ‘temporarily’ suspended ‘surge price’.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted Monday afternoon, “Strict action, incl permit cancellation n impounding vehicle, to be taken against taxis which charge rates more than govt prescribed rates.”

Commuters, meanwhile, were disgruntled about the increase in fares. Radha Saraya had to take her mother to a doctor in south Delhi at 2 pm. “At 1 pm, Uber asked for a surge charge of 3.4 times, while it was 2.5 times from Ola, for a trip from R K Puram to Saket. I waited 15 minutes. While Uber’s surge pricing continued, Ola had no cabs available anymore,” she said. She had to shift the appointment to 8.30 pm, when the odd-even restrictions are lifted.

Another commuter said he was charged Rs 1,300 for a trip from east Delhi to Connaught Place. “Why should there be a surcharge at 11 am when there is no traffic on the road?” he said.

Many passengers took to social media all through Monday, tagging Kejriwal with images of their bills. Officials claimed many commuters called the government-manned helpline to register their grievances.

Transport Minister Gopal Rai said, “During odd-even, people who were calling for app-based cabs found they were being charged almost six times the usual fare. We will not allow private cab companies to abuse market economics to loot people.”

He added, “We have set up a complaints committee with a nodal officer manning the helpline number — 01142400400. Calls will be monitored from Tuesday. Complainants will have to submit bills that can be produced in court. Transport department officials will impound the vehicle if they are found charging prices above government rates.”

Ola, Uber respond

Gagan Bhatia, general manager, Uber North, said, “Given the government’s threat to cancel permits and impound vehicles, we are temporarily suspending surge price in Delhi with immediate effect. We hope to work with the government, especially during this time when the citizens need us the most.” Deep Singh, Business Head, Ola North, said, “To make the government’s odd-even initiative a success, Ola has temporarily pulled out peak pricing in Delhi-NCR.”

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