In June 2021, Shreyans Mamania, a Mumbai-based lawyer, logged into the Ola app to book a ride from Kandivali to Kalachowki. While booking the cab, the fare displayed on the screen was Rs 372. However, when they reached the destination the driver demanded Rs 434.
Speaking to The Better India, Shreyans says, “The fare from when we started our ride to our destination increased by Rs 62 for no apparent reason. Despite trying to speak to a customer support staff multiple times I was unsuccessful. The driver, who by then was agitated, asked me to pay the amount. The driver kept saying, ‘Such things happen and people always pay up’.
The Ola driver also mentioned that if Shreyans did not pay the difference, it would most likely be deducted from his salary. “I did not want that to happen and hence paid up,” says Shreyans.
But before approaching the consumer forum in September 2021, Shreyans tried reaching out to Ola on several occasions.
He says, “From the cab driver’s phone I was connected to a relationship manager, who after hearing my side of the story, said nothing could be done. They suggested I reach out to the customer care team. However, despite looking for their number I was unable to reach them.”
Eventually, Shreyans resorted to sending them a legal notice. “Despite the legal notice being received by the company, they chose to ignore it. It was at this juncture that I decided to approach the consumer forum with my grievance,” he says.
This act amounted to unfair trade practice and Shreyans’s grouse was against that. “During my conversation with the cab driver, he mentioned that there is always a discrepancy of a few rupees and most customers pay it without bringing it up. This was another issue that troubled me,” he adds.
In September 2020, the consumer forum accepted Shreyan’s petition. After hearing the matter, the Hon’ble Member of the consumer forum ordered Ola cabs to pay Rs 10,000 as compensation and Rs 5,000 as litigation costs within 30 days of the order.
“It is not about being overcharged by Rs 62. My fight is against unfair trade practices. Ola cabs must get its software fixed to ensure that such spikes do not happen. Even if this happens to 100 of its customers daily, Ola earns Rs 5,000 from it or maybe higher. My fight is against that,” he says.
Consumer Forum is Approachable Sans a Lawyer
“Unlike other forums, the consumer forum does not require one to have a lawyer to file a case or even argue a matter. The Consumer Protection Act is a small, easy to understand and simple act. The process of filing has also been made in such a way that those without any legal knowledge can also file complaints,” says Shreyans.
Each consumer forum also has a legal aid cell, which will help in understanding the process and also provide assistance in filing the case, with all proper documentation. “Once the case is filed, a notice will be issued by the court to the opposite party, wherein they will have to appear and file their reply. Once done, you will be asked to produce the evidence before the forum,” he says.
As a word of advice, Shreyans says, “My case survived because I had enough evidence. The screenshot with my booking, which had the amount of Rs 372 helped. I would urge you to keep all screenshots and check the break-up of charges being levied. Sometimes one finds discrepancies in that as well.”
To read more on how to file and fight your case in the consumer forum, click here.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)