FILE Taxi-hailing
Janet Kemboi. Fraudulent
Kenya
Ngong Road
Nigeria

Rogue Uber drivers in customer billing fraud

The rogue Uber drivers have used the dummy app to more than triple the distance travelled and charge customers fees that are exaggerated by similar margins. One passenger who used Uber taxi from a location on Nairobi’s Riverside drive to the city centre — a distance of about five kilometres — was last week billed for 42 kilometres.Uber acknowledged that it was aware of the violations, which it said were in breach of its operating guidelines.

The dummy apps, which have recently caused an uproar in Nigeria, interfere with the Uber Application’s location (GPS) readings. PHOTOS | FILE

Taxi-hailing service Uber’s drivers are using dummy apps to extend the distance travelled by riders in order to charge them exaggerated fees, hitting Kenyan users’ confidence in the automated billing system.  The dummy apps, which have recently caused an uproar in Nigeria, interfere with the Uber Application’s location (GPS) readings to create a parallel travel path, prolong the journey and ultimately drive up the cost of the ride. In recent weeks the rogue Uber drivers have used the dummy app to more than triple the distance travelled and charge customers fees that are exaggerated by similar margins. The initial amount of Sh2,456 charged erroneously to a passenger (left) and the refunded amount (Sh1,876) after the customer issued a complaint to Uber. PHOTO | SCREENGRAB FROM UBER APP

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One passenger who used Uber taxi from a location on Nairobi’s Riverside drive to the city centre — a distance of about five kilometres — was last week billed for 42 kilometres, resulting in a charge of Sh2,456 rather than an estimated Sh580.

Uber immediately agreed to properly bill the rider when the matter was reported and refunded the Sh1,800 that the driver had stolen from the customer.Another rider who boarded Uber near the Chiromo roundabout on Ngong Road, a distance of less than four kilometres, was billed Sh1,900 for a distance of 17.6 kilometres. He was refunded after filing a complaint. Most riders, however, do not check the data sent to their e-mails at the end of a trip to confirm their accuracy.   Uber acknowledged that it was aware of the violations, which it said were in breach of its operating guidelines.“Uber is aware of these incidents. They are in clear violation of our Community Guidelines. Fraudulent activity undermines the trust on which Uber is built. That’s why we are constantly on the lookout for fraud by riders and driver-partners who are gaming our systems,” said Uber East Africa spokesperson Janet Kemboi.Fraudulent billing by Uber drivers has been on the rise in Kenya since late 2017 when similar incidents were reported in Nigeria. Reports showed that a test geofencing-based app Lockito was used by drivers to defraud their customers. The app is used to generate a fake trip and a fake fare from the point a driver picks up a passenger to the point they end the trip.In most cases, the app is able to start the trip long before the actual one begins. At the end of the journey, the passenger is presented with a cost tally of both the actual and fake trip as the app cannot differentiate the two.Most of the time the unsuspecting passengers will barely notice the glitch in the pricing or merely attribute it to the usual Uber price surges. Any customer who does not notice or report irregular billing through the support line offered on Uber’s system will have left the fraudulent driver to go scot-free.Uber Kenya, however, maintained that all riders reporting fraudulent activity get refunded — suggesting it is a customer’s responsibility to evaluate the fare charged after a trip to avoid losing money to the fraudsters.“Uber encourages both riders and driver-partners to rate their journey at the end of the trip. Honest feedback helps ensure that everyone is accountable for their behaviour,” said Ms Kemboi.It has also emerged that some Uber drivers charge riders parking tolls even in cases where the ride did not actually go through a paid parking yard. One driver insisted that this was usually an ‘innocent’ error when driving close to an establishment with pay parking and could easily be solved by requesting for a refund through the app. Some drivers are, however, said to be using the technology to beat what they see as low charges on the Uber app. Over the past couple of years, the drivers attached to e-hailing platforms have protested, in some instances violently, poor returns and high commission charges.The introduction of low-cost alternatives last year for customers willing to use older cars sparked a new row between the taxi drivers and the technology companies. ALSO READ: Uber inks deals with nine firms to offer drivers more benefits

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