DCDRC chastises Uber India; Notes that charging excess cab fare rather than the actual contracted fare during advance booking, is unfair trade practice

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District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (DCDRC), Chandigarh: While considering the instant consumer complaint wherein the complainant highlighted his grievance with Uber charging cab fare of Rs 1334 for a journey of 8.83 Kms instead of the upfront fare of Rs 359; the Bench of Pawanjit Singh (President), Surjeet Kaur* and Suresh Kumar Sardana (Members) came down heavily on Uber and opined that practice of charging excess fare than that of actual contracted fare at the time of advance booking, is unfair trade practice, which needs be deprecated, the Commission held that the complainant is entitled for compensation for mental agony and harassment and also to litigation expenses.

Chastising Uber India for its unfair trade practices, the Commission directed them to pay an Rs 7000 to the complainant as compensation for causing mental agony and harassment; pay Rs 3000 as costs of litigation and to deposit Rs10,000 as compensation in Consumer Legal Aid Account, maintained by the Chandigarh District Commission.

Background: The complainant averred that he had to pay an amount of Rs.1334 against the original amount of Rs. 358.57 for a journey of approximately 9 kms. It was further alleged that the complainant travelled from AG Colony Sector 41-B, Chandigarh to Sector 48-B Chandigarh, which covers a distance of 8.83 kms and took only 15 minutes. However, Uber India illegally/arbitrarily charged Rs 1334 for the aforesaid trip which amounts to deficiency in service.

Per contra, Uber India argued that the upfront fare shown to the rider was Rs.359/-, however, the final trip fare was Rs.1334/- due to multiple route deviations during the course of the journey. The opposite parties argued that it was not able to determine if the said deviations were rider or driver induced. It was further submitted that Uber cannot be held liable in cases of route deviations and resultant fare changes, as it merely acts as an intermediary between the rider and the driver and is not party to any agreement between them regarding the route taken for the journey.

It is also stated that Uber India, solely as a goodwill gesture and to maintain users’ faith in reliability of the platform, have refunded Uber Credits worth Rs.975/- to the complainants’ uber account.

Commission’s Assessment: Perusing the facts of the case the documents presented by the parties, the Commission noted that Uber has transferred the burden of deficiency in service onto the shoulders of the driver. It was pointed out that as per record, the complainant was bound to pay to the driver as per the directions of the opposite parties only.

Coming down heavily on Uber India, the DCDRC noted that a layman does not know intricacies of contract between Uber and its drivers. When someone avails online services through the known or branded concern, then the person expects to have a contract with this branded concern and not with the hidden partner of the branded service provider, which is why Uber escapes from liability under the garb of hidden contract between them with the driver partner. Keeping in view all this, the Commission pointed out that ordinary layman like complainant cannot be denied his due by invoking intricacies of law. “It is so because technicalities cannot come in the way of administration of justice to hapless consumers who stand exploited like complainant in this case”.

The Commission thus concluded that the act of opposite parties for non-providing proper services and forcing the complainant to indulge in the instant unnecessary litigation proves deficiency in service and their indulgence in unfair trade practice.

The Commission also held that in order to keep a check on unruly service providers such as Uber, who commit breach of assurances, promises and commitments at the nick of time, they are required to be dealt with heavy hands and as such they must be made to deposit at least Rs.10,000/- as compensation in Consumer Welfare Fund of the Chandigarh District Forum.

[Ashwani Parashar v. Uber India Systems Pvt Ltd., CC/976/2022, decided on 07-03-2024]

*Order by Surjeet Kaur, Member

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Anmol Prashar, Advocate for Complainant.

Vikrant Pachnanda, along with Rohan Mittal, Advocate for OP No.1 & 4

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