Bombay HC seeks state’s response on implementation of cab aggregator guidelines

The Bombay High Court asked the state government on Wednesday what steps it had taken for the implementation of the customer complaint redressal mechanism to be provided by app-based cab aggregators under the Motor Vehicle Aggregators Guidelines, 2020 along with earlier directives.

The directions were issued after a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni heard a PIL filed by city-based advocate Savina Crasto, who raised grievances regarding ‘complex and ineffective’ redressal mechanism provided by an app-based cab aggregator. The bench asked the petitioner to make the secretaries of the Union Ministry of Surface Transport and Ministry of Information Technology parties to the PIL to respond to concerns raised by her.

The court also asked her to submit a comparative statement of redressal mechanisms being provided by other app-based cab service providers. The petitioner, referring to her personal experience last year, said that the cab driver was driving rashly at night and stopped the vehicle in the middle of the route, claiming there was a problem in the car and that she should cancel the trip.

The petitioner stated that as she was alone and did not want to arrive late for a work-related meeting, she booked another vehicle and had to pay more than the fare shown for the first vehicle. The PIL then cited another incident faced by her parents, where they had to shell out a sum over and above the fare they had booked the cab for.

The petitioner had approached the respondent service provider on all the available email addresses with her grievances. However, the emails had either bounced back or no reply was received. Crasto then raised the issue with the central and state government but, after getting no response, she approached the High Court.

Crasto argued, “They (app-based cab service provider) do not want emails. They have an app system which lists options. So, if customers want to set out their grievances in detail, there is no other way. The respondent is working in a manner which is against the rights of the public at large to raise their grievances and/or to lodge their complaints freely without any embargo. There is an apparent arbitrary restriction created by the service provider.”

The PIL said, “The respondent cab service provider, which has worldwide presence, does not treat citizens of this country at par with others in developed nations and cares less about them and it can be ascertained from the fact that the service provider has guard-ed its details in such a manner that completely leaves its customers exhausted and makes them feel helpless while raising their grievances against the company.”

The PIL sought from HC directions to the app-based cab service provider to comply with ‘statutory obligations’ in ‘letter and spirit’ for ‘larger public interest’ and to resolve customers’ complaints without any ‘embargo on their length’ in a time-bound manner. The petition also sought from the central and state government to strictly implement the Motor Vehicles Aggregators Guidelines 2020.

Seeking responses from the Centre and state government, the court set the next hearing on February 10.