Taxi aggregators Ola and Uber are operating illegally since last year, the AAP government told the Delhi high court on Saturday, raising its ante against the cab-hailing services accused of fleecing commuters during road-rationing measures in the capital.
The transport department’s affidavit in court came a few days after chief minister Arvind Kejriwal vowed to ban ‘surge pricing’, a business model of raising cab fares with growing demand that has angered people.
On April 18, the court had pulled up the government on alleged overcharging by operators like Uber and Ola as the “general public was suffering” due to it.
Ola and Uber’s applications for license were rejected by the transport department on June 28 2015, the government said adding that city police have been asked to stop their operations.
“Not only the app-based companies are 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’…,” the government said.
The two companies had moved the high court in June last year after the government started impounding cabs. The court allowed the companies to operate till March 31 and later extended the deadline till April 30.
Saturday’s government response came on a plea filed by a taxi service, Magic Sewa Pvt Ltd, which alleged that unlicensed taxi aggregators “have been disdainfully violating” laid down fares by charging low rates like Rs five per km or as high as Rs 38 per km.
The government said in the affidavit filed by its counsel Sanjoy Ghose that it had notified rules in August 2015 under which taxis service providers are mandated to “charge fare as prescribed by the transport department”.
Faced with public outcry and possible government action, Ola and Uber discontinued surge pricing but defended the scheme saying it is used to lure more cab drivers to offer services during high demand.
There were complaints of “artificial shortage” of cabs after the two companies withdrew the scheme, drawing a sharp rebuke from the chief minister. Kejriwal said the companies were “blackmailing” the people and the government.
The government re-introduced the odd-even scheme for a fortnight from April 1 to clean up the capital’s foul air and clear its clogged roads but has faced criticism from the political opposition and a section of the public.