The Mumbai Police has asked cab aggregator Ola to submit a report on how drivers affiliated to the company were manipulating the app to charge passengers higher fares. Three Ola cab drivers were recently arrested for allegedly tampering a previous version of the app software to charge higher fares.
Crime branch officials have also informed the chief technology officer (CTO) of Ola, who appeared before the police two weeks ago, that it is not just an earlier app that may have a glitch but the current software was also vulnerable to tampering.
Ola declined to comment on the issue saying it was part of an ongoing investigation. “After we explained the manipulation to the Ola CTO earlier this month, they are looking at the earlier version of the app to find out how drivers were adding extra kilometres on trips. We were told that tampering the app was not easy as it would mean making changes in the server as well. We are awaiting their report, which they have promised in the next few days,” said Crime Branch Inspector (Unit I) Vinayak Mer.
He added, “We also informed them that when we did a dummy run with the current app last week by switching the app on and off, there were some changes in the total distance covered on this one as well, although not as extreme as the ones found in the earlier app. The Ola CTO said they will study the system and tell us how the app was manipulated by the drivers.”
Apart from this, police have also sought data of all rides undertaken by the cab aggregator in the last year. They want to find out in how many cases the final fare was much above the estimated fare shown at the time of booking.
“We are trying to find out if there are any more complainants. We have already received an e-mail from a person in Panvel, who told us that he too had been overcharged,” the officer said.
During the investigation, police found that the main accused, Rajesh Acharya, who was arrested with two other cab drivers on November 1, would charge around Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 for installing the outdated app on the phones of cab drivers. Acharya would lock the app, which meant the driver could not pass it on or sell it to others, police said.
Once the app was installed, Acharya would switch off the auto update option to prevent a new version of the app from being downloaded, police said.
“Acharya told us that only Samsung phones had the option of tinkering with the download manager settings in a way that it did not automatically update the latest version of Ola. He would ask drivers who wanted the app installed to get Samsung mobile phones,” Mer said.
Police also said while the three accused were behind bars, they found that there were close to 40 drivers who installed the outdated Ola app to rig the system.
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