Karnataka govt & transport dept to take joint action against app based auto services

Following allegations that Uber, Ola, and Rapido were charging inflated prices to clients in Bengaluru, police and transportation officials are planning to conduct a joint investigation into these companies’ auto rickshaw ride-hailing services.

Home Minister Araga Jnanendra who spoke to ET revealed that he will hold a meeting with top police and transport officials on Wednesday to discuss ways to regulate the operations of platform-based aggregators.

Complaints had been pouring in from the public that their fares for auto rides were much higher than those mandated by the government, he added.

The home minister’s statement came a day after B Sriramulu, the transport minister, indicated that the authorities would start confiscating autos found to be running on aggregators’ platforms despite the transport department’s direction to stop these operations.

“The aggregators were operating with total disregard for the government’s orders and regulations and were doing all sorts of illegal things,” Jnanendra said.

The government would intervene and do what it could to fix loopholes and prevent citizens from being fleeced, he added.

The Karnataka On-Demand Transportation Technology Aggregators Rules, 2016, gave these companies a licence that only allowed them to provide taxi services in vehicles with a capacity of six people, excluding the driver.

The department also gave them until Tuesday to submit their fare structures and respond to complaints of overcharging.

The transport department will take action as per the law, without any leniency, said L Hemanth Kumar, additional commissioner of the department.

“They (aggregators) applied for a license to operate motor cabs and we have issued a license for the same. Autorickshaws don’t come under that. For instance, our rules stipulate GPS installation. Can we expect an auto to have a GPS?” Kumar, the secretary of the Karnataka State Transport Authority, told ET.

Some executives at ride-hailing firms have argued that the aggregator rules very much cover autos as they can transport three passengers (excluding the driver).

ET reported on October 8 that companies were unlikely to stop offering auto rickshaw services.

Sources reported that the companies were yet to take a decision on the matter.

A new policy request

The government stated that autos were not covered by the aggregator licence, while the companies initially intended to claim that the law did not specifically provide that only cars could be aggregated.

As per a company source, even as the companies are preparing their final arguments, they are likely to approach the government and ask them to come out with a separate aggregator policy for autos, as it did for bike taxis in 2021.

“We would likely request them to come up with a new policy as this space is not yet regulated,” he said.

A change in fare prices

As per company sources, soon after the notices were issued, the companies immediately reduced the minimum fare from Rs 60 for four kilometers to Rs 30 for two kilometers.

The fare was increased to Rs 60 over a month ago after fuel prices increased.

But the final charge the customers end up paying is still well above government-mandated fare, which is a base fare of Rs 30 for two kilometres and Rs 15 per kilometer after that.

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