Ride-share companies have done a stellar job promoting their services and cutting into a market that was once dominated by big taxi firms, but they’re also racking up customer complaints.
Christchurch resident William booked a 10km trip through Ola, with the company estimating the ride would cost him $23 to $25. He ended up being charged $77 – more than three times the expected cost.
After complaining, Ola refunded him just $6.49, claiming there was a “high demand” at the time of booking, which resulted in the increased fare.
Auckland customer Michael was chased by Ola for $148 over a ride estimated at $25 to $30. Threatened with a $44 debt collection fee, Michael paid up.
Both customers were denied refunds when they spoke to Ola. After Consumer NZ got in touch, Ola had a change of heart and refunded both customers the extra they’d paid as a “gesture of goodwill”.
“It’s important that passengers are aware of their rights when using ride-share services. These services provide an indication of your fare upfront when you book. You shouldn't be facing any surprises regarding how much you're charged at the end of your ride,” Consumer NZ head of content Caitlin Cherry said.
“If you've been overcharged, or charged for a fare you didn't take, request a refund. If you’re refused, request a chargeback from your bank. Ride-share companies should be transparent with passengers about the cost of their services.”
Since November 2018, the Commerce Commission has fielded 76 complaints about ride-share companies. Most were about pricing and advertising claims.
Ola had 39 complaints. Uber 36, and Zoomy had one.
In 2019, Ola received a letter from the commission, outlining complaints alleging behaviour – including overcharging and discounts not being honoured – that risked breaching the Fair Trading Act.
Ola and Uber have also attracted the attention of Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) over complaints about driver behaviour. Regulations require drivers carrying fare-paying passengers to pass both driving and criminal history checks.
Of 320 complaints since 2019, 60 were serious enough for NZTA to revoke or suspend the driver’s passenger licence. Forty-one of the 60 were Uber drivers while 13 were driving for Ola. The remaining six were Zoomy drivers.