The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has prepared guidelines for cab aggregators like Ola and Uber, which propose to regulate commission charged by the cab aggregators and look to place a blanket cap on surge pricing. Reuters had first reported this development. Called the Central Aggregator Guidelines, 2019, the guidelines mandate aggregators to store data in India, recognise them as intermediaries, and also provide them safe harbour, but demand them to put in place certain safety measures to ensure passengers’ safety. MediaNama has accessed a copy of the 23-page document and here’s a summary:
Aggregators or state governments can decide the base fare: Aggregators can fix the base minimum fare for a minimum of 3 kilometres. This fare can be revised quarterly, but only after the licensing authority has been duly notified of the same.
- Alternatively, the guidelines propose that state governments can also decide the minimum base fare.
Cap on commission charged by aggregators: The guidelines propose to cap commission charged by aggregators to 10% of the fare of each ride. It also says that state governments can also, by way of a notification, keep a portion of the fare. However, that portion will be deducted from the driver’s cut.
Regulates surge pricing: The guidelines set surge pricing at a maximum of twice the base fare per kilometre. Also, no more than 10% of daily rides undertaken by a driver can be subject to surge pricing.
Data localisation: Aggregators will have to store the data which their mobile apps collect on a server in India for a period of 2 years, from the date of collecting the data.
- If law enforcement agencies demand for this data, aggregators will have to make it available to them.
- The guidelines say that the security of customer data shall be “ensured by the inclusion of a firewall”.
Setting up control centres: Aggregators will have to set up 24X7 control centres, and vehicles linked to an aggregator should be able to establish uninterrupted control with the control room. Aggregators should also be able to monitor vehicles registered on their platform via the control room.
- In case a driver veers off the assigned route, a mechanism should be built into the aggregator’s app such that the control room can immediately get in touch with the driver.
Grievance redressal centres with a valid telephone number, operational email address should be clearly displayed on the aggregator’s app, and should be operable at any time during the day.
- Riders can file complaints regarding the ride/the driver/the condition of the vehicle, within 24 hours of hailing the ride.
- However, if complaints are “criminal” in nature, complaints can be filed within 72 hours of availing a ride. In this case, the driver, against whom such a complaint has been filed, shall be off-boarded for 2 days, from the day on which the complaint was made.
Safe Harbour provision: Aggregators will have to offer “utmost cooperation” to law enforcement agencies; however, aggregators will not be held liable for any incident that jeopardises the safety of a passenger due to action or inaction of the driver of that ride.
Facial recognition for driver verification: Aggregators will have to enforce facial recognition or biometric verification of drivers every 3 hours, every day.
Aggregators can be stripped of their licence: The draft guidelines say that if aggregators fail to comply with the provisions, the licensing authority can strip them of their license. However, this provision hasn’t been finalised yet. Here’s what the draft says:
“The Licensing Authority may within fifteen (15) days, after giving an opportunity of being heard to the Aggregator, suspend the licence for a period which shall not be less than [__] days and not more than [__] months, or may cancel the licence, after confiscating the security deposit made by the Aggregator, if the Aggregator _ fails to comply with any of the requirements or conditions of these Guidelines.”
Will there be a new oversight regulator? Aggregators can appeal against orders passed by the licensing authority within 30 days. The guidelines say that appeal can be made to the state government or “such other agency” as may be notified by the state government.
Penalises both drivers and riders for cancelling rides: If drivers or riders cancel a ride without a valid reason, they will be penalised “10%/50%” of the total fare, not exceeding more than Rs 100.
- “On more than [__] cancellation of bookings made by a rider within 7 days, the driver shall be Off-boarded for a period of 2 days,” the guidelines say. This suggests that the ministry hasn’t yet made up its mind on this provision.
Changes to be made to aggregators’ app: Aggregators’ app should support all languages enlisted under the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of India, with English as the prime language, for both the driver and the rider.
- Driver’s personal contact number should be accessible by the rider a period of 3 months from hailing the ride.
Insurance benefits to drivers and riders:
- Riders: Aggreagators will have to provide an insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh for each rider taking a trip.
- Drivers: A term insurance for each driver on the aggregator’s platform of a minimum of Rs 10 lakhs.
Tracking of cabs: Aggregators will have to provide a list of drivers, their licence numbers, vehicle registration numbers, chassis and engine numbers, and permit details of vehicles on their platform to the licensing authority, every quarter.
- All vehicles on an aggregator’s platform should be fit with an AIS 140 certified Vehicle Tracking & Monitoring System, as specified by the Transport Ministry. GPS tracking equipment will also have to be fit on the vehicles.
GPS panic button, display boards, and other measures for safety: The guidelines propose a number of measures that can go a long way in ensuring safety of passengers, especially women, who hail cabs from an aggregator’s platform, such as:
- Vehicles should be fitted with a GPS panic button, which should be connected to the control room of the aggregator
- Vehicles (except two-wheelers) should have a display board showing the driver’s details such as photograph, name, copy of driving licence, badge particulars and ID card issued by police authorities, and should be clearly visible to the passengers.
- Carpooling: Female passengers who wish to car pool should have an option to drive only with other female passengers.
Mandates training of drivers, penalises low-rated drivers: Aggregators will have to conduct a 5 day training program before onboarding a new vehicle and driver on their platform. This training program should include a “gender sensitisation program”.
- Apart from that, training sessions for onboarded drivers will also have to be organised by the aggregator once every year for at least 2 days.
- Drivers with ratings below 2 percentile will have to undertake the requisite portion of the training programme, compulsorily, and would remain off-boarded until the training program’s completion.
Addresses competition issues: Aggregators will have to allow drivers to register themselves on other aggregators’ platforms as well.
- Aggregators should ensure parity between the fleet which they own, and other vehicles registered on their platform.
If city taxis choose to register themselves on an aggregator’s platform, they should be permitted such integration.
Maximum detour while carpooling: The guidelines have a provision to restrict the number of kilometres’ detour allowed while carpooling, however, the document doesn’t specify the exact number of kilometres, and has just left a blank instead.