Taxi drivers, car owners urge government not to renew Uber and Bolt licenses

A section of Digital taxi drivers and car owners during a press conference where they want the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) not to renew the 2023-2024 operation licences of Bolt and Uber over violation of regulations. October 27, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Digital taxi drivers and car owners have urged the government not to renew licenses of foreign taxing hailing apps Bolt and Uber.

Uber is an American company while Bolt is an Estonian one and they launched their operation in June 2015 and 2016 respectively.

They want the two foreign companies to act on the complaints they have forwarded to the industry regulator National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA).

According to the drivers, they wrote to the NTSA Director General George Njao and Mohamed Dhagar, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Roads and Transport on October 24.

In the letter, they highlighted issues of non-compliance to the regulations but they have not been acted upon.

The regulations are contained in the Transport Network Companies, Drivers, Passengers, And Vehicle Owners Regulations, 2022.

The 2023-2024 operating licenses are supposed to be renewed on Friday instead of Saturday, which will be a non-working day for government offices.

“Bolt OU as a transport network company continues to operate in Kenya without proper registration as a body corporate as required in Rule 6 of the referenced regulations,” said Wycliffe Alutalala, industry spokesperson.

He added: “Uber and Bolt's applications are currently charging more booking fees on top of the recommended 18 per cent commission capping as per Rue 9(2)g and 9(3) of the regulations.”

He said Uber has been charging 11 per cent on top of 18 per cent while Bolt five per cent.

Alutalala was speaking when the drivers addressed a press conference in Nairobi on Friday.

The drivers said the two companies continue to operate in violation of Rule 7 of the referenced regulations.

“Drivers and car owners have been operating in coercion as far as the signing of the service level agreements without reading, agreeing or the option of asking questions, pricing mechanism, revenue sharing and dispute resolution mechanisms,” said Zakaria Johana, acting secretary general of Ride-Hailing Transport Association.

They also cited the violation of 14(2), which requires them to verify the identity of each passenger during enrolment to their platforms.

This, they said critically compromises the security of drivers and vehicle owners.

“The increasing cases of carjacking of drivers and whenever these incidents happen, we realise that customers are registered on the applications with fake and funny names like gay, Mosquito, Shetani and the rest, which is in contravention of Rule 14(2) which requires that every company must be able to verify the identity of their customers,” added Alutalala. 

Last, they said Bolt and Uber have continued to “maliciously deactivate, suspend and remove drivers from their platforms in violation of Rule 15(1) and (2) of the referenced regulations.

They said according to the regulations, it requires that before an application company suspends, deactivates or removes the driver, he or she should be notified and given a good time to be heard.

And once that is done, the taxi companies, they said have to notify NTSA, which later publishes the list of drivers suspended on their website.

“We have gone through the NTSA website for the past year and found no any of these companies have submitted any single name of a driver yet we are aware that thousands of drivers have been deactivated from the platform,” said Johana.

The drivers are now asking the NTSA DG and its director of compliance and registration to explain to them under which circumstances the two companies qualified to be said to be compliant.

“Two, we are challenging NTSA to tell us why with all these glaring violations for a whole year they have not addressed these violations,” said Alutalala.

They gave NTSA seven days to ensure the two companies complied with the regulations, failure of which they said would mobilise all digital taxi drivers across the country to strike.

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