Ride-hailing app Uber India on Thursday said it has, over the past few weeks, raised fares to cushion drivers from the impact of rising fuel prices across many cities in India.
The company said it always strives to make driving with Uber a viable and attractive option for drivers, and added that "the recent hike in fares will directly boost their earnings per trip".
"The hike in fuel prices has impacted everyone, especially ridesharing drivers who have felt the pinch of rising fuel costs," the company said in a statement as it announced a slew of new product features to improve rider and driver experience.
In March this year, the first-ever Uber Driver Advisory Council convened, and the driver members on the council had raised this as a key issue, it explained.
"Over the past few weeks, we have raised Uber fares to cushion drivers from the impact of rising fuel prices across many cities in India," the statement said. Uber also said it is now showing trip destination to drivers before they decide to accept a ride to enable them to make informed choices.
Upfront destination feature is already live across 20 cities and will be expanded to all others, Uber said in a statement. The move assumes significance as the government recently warned cab aggregators, including Ola and Uber, of strict action unless they improve their systems and redress mounting consumer complaints.
On May 10, the government held a meeting with the ride-hailing platforms amid a rise in consumer complaints of alleged unfair trade practices by them, including ride cancellation policy, as drivers at times force customers to cancel trips after accepting bookings, which results in customers paying cancellation penalties.
The government had made it clear that there will be "zero tolerance against such malpractices" by cab aggregators. Ride-hailing platforms were advised to take the consumers' complaints with utmost priority and take remedial steps to ensure adequate protection of consumer rights.
On Thursday, Uber said, "To address issues such as ride cancellations, drivers not turning on the air-conditioning during rides, or refusal to accept online payments, the company has rolled out new measures."
The initiatives include empowering drivers to make informed choices through trip destination info. "We understand the feeling you get when the driver calls and asks the dreaded question: 'Jana Kahan Hai' (where do you have to go) and then cancels the trip," Uber said.
To remove frustration for riders and drivers alike, Uber said it is now showing trip destinations to drivers before they decide to accept the ride.
"In our attempt to incentivise right platform behaviour -- drivers who meet a predefined trip acceptance threshold will be eligible to get the destination information so that they can make an informed choice. Upfront destination feature is already live across 20 cities and will be expanded to all others," it said in a statement.
Uber said it believes the changes will be appreciated by drivers, and will, in turn, translate into better experience for riders. "With these changes, we are also reinforcing service quality expectations with drivers especially in areas like cancellations and ensuring AC rides," it said.
In addition to driver notifications and training, repeated complaints from riders on these service quality essentials could lead to penalties and even restricted app access, it said. Stating that the issues involved are complex and "there is no silver bullet", Uber pledged its commitment to "listening to riders and drivers".
Acknowledging that drivers 'understandably' don't like having to drive out of their way to pick up passengers, Uber said that to fix the situation, it has introduced additional earnings for drivers in case they have to travel a long distance to pick up riders.
"This will give drivers the comfort to accept more trips and will benefit riders as trip reliability goes up. Drivers will be able to see the earnings for long pick-ups, separately displayed on the fare receipt," Uber said.
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As drivers want more flexibility around payments, Uber is now showing drivers the mode of payment (cash or online) prior to the trip. "This enables the driver to choose a cash-only ride if that's what they need. Going a step further to make the cash or online decision irrelevant, we've now introduced a daily pay process for drivers," according to Uber.
This will ensure that trip earnings from Monday to Thursday are credited to drivers the next day, while earnings from Friday to Sunday, are credited on Monday.
"At Uber, our aim is to provide a safe and reliable platform for drivers and riders and any experience that falls short is unacceptable to us," Nitish Bhushan, Director of Central Operations, Uber India, said.
The new product features like upfront destination, long pickup fees, daily payments, cash indicator along with the recent fare hikes should address reliability and service quality concerns in a more holistic way, while improving the overall experience for riders and drivers, Bhushan added.