Uber, Bolt drivers in Kenya stage go-slow over commissions

Taxi drivers signed on to the Uber Kenya and Bolt platforms on Monday staged a go-slow in a move to push the firms to lower the commission charged on their fees.

The industrial action came just days after the new regulations to cap the commission charged by taxi-hailing firms at 18 percent took effect—which have been challenged in court by Uber, which maintains that the move will restrict flexibility on its revenue model, and stifle the ability to negotiate suitable commissions that will affect its investment, demand and competition.

Read: Bolt switches to corporate clients only in Tanzania

A section of the drivers told the Business Daily on Monday they were not accepting rider requests from the two apps in areas such as Eastlands, Kasarani, Nairobi CBD, Waiyaki way, and Kilimani area.

“We are asking Uber and Bolt to obey the law. Regulations were supposed to take effect on September 22. This is the backbone of our strike which has started today morning,” said Zachariah Mwangi, chairman of Organisation of Online Taxi Drivers and Digital Taxi Association of Kenya.

“The other problem we have is we don’t determine prices, the companies do. We are still operating with the same price when fuel prices were at Ksh97 ($0.80).”

Fuel costs in Kenya have shot up with petrol retailing at Ksh179.3 ($1.49) a litre and diesel at Ksh165.82 ($1.37) in Nairobi.

Read: Uber suspends operations in Tanzania pending ‘deal with authorities

Also read: Tanzania says Uber, Bolt agree to resume services

Uber Kenya told Business Daily it was aware of the go-slow by some drivers, and that it would continue engaging them on their concerns.

“We are aware that a small group of e-hailing drivers plan to go offline (not using the app). We respect drivers as valuable partners with a voice and a choice and we want drivers to feel they can talk to us about anything at any time,” the firm said.

“However, drivers are diverse in how they use the Uber app and it would be difficult for an individual or group to holistically represent every driver on the app.”

Read: Auctioneer’s hammer to fall on Uber cars

The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) in June 20 published regulations putting the ceiling on commission charged by digital taxi operators in the country on drivers at 18 percent per trip.

The law was expected to take effect three months after the notice, as a move to cushion thousands of drivers who for years have cried out on declined earnings.

Also read: Uber taxi wars in Kenya highlight tax loopholes in charging technology

Uber, however, filed a petition with the High Court to suspend the regulations.

Uber charges 25 percent commission per single ride, while Bolt and Little platforms charge 20 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

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