Uber is collapsing in South Africa with driver problems, dilapidated cars, frequent cancelled trips, unhappy workers, and passenger safety problems.
Uber, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in South Africa next month, is a shadow of the excellent transportation service it used to be.
When Uber entered the country in 2013, the cars were top-notch, the drivers were professional and well-trained, and Uber offered extraordinary service levels.
Fast forward 10 years, the cars are run-down, the drivers are far less conscientious, and users often experience cancelled trips and other problems.
Daily Investor highlighted these problems in an article, after which it received a slew of complaints from drivers and passengers about the service.
Thato Ramaila, the Soweto United E-hailing Association chairperson, told Daily Investor that Uber does not “have a clue what’s needed on the ground”.
Ramaila accused Uber of putting its drivers and riders at risk and failing to engage with concerned partners.
He said the company does very little to protect its drivers against attacks and that the ‘record and panic button’ does not deter criminal activity.
Ramaila confirmed that drivers cancel trips, which can leave users stranded. He explained that some trips don’t make financial sense to drivers.
Drivers also avoid using air conditioning as it increases petrol consumption and eats into their profit margin.
He added that drivers are less conscientious because of deteriorating working conditions and lower income.
“Drivers are frustrated because they have to work very long hours to compensate for the low fees Uber pays,” he said.
Ramaila added that criminals working for Uber are behind many problems, including overbilling for trips and robbing clients.
Cancelled trips and airport queuing system
MyBroadband reported that a group of Uber drivers are gaming the service’s queuing system, explaining why people struggle to find rides from airports during off-peak times.
The scam is simple – Uber drivers leave their phones in a room near the airport, which one person manages.
Uber implements a ride request queue in busy areas like airports to manage traffic. This system gives preference to the first drivers in the area.
The Uber drivers’ phones in the room make it appear they are at the location, and they, therefore, get preference.
When a user requests a ride, the person looking after the phone accepts it. However, the phone remains in the room.
The frustrated rider will eventually cancel the trip. It does not affect the Uber driver, and they received a cancellation fee.
The system makes it impossible for other Uber drivers who arrive at the airport to get ride requests.
Uber is investigating the issue, saying it was unacceptable and clearly violated its Community Guidelines.
“While this is not a regular occurrence, Uber is committed to constantly updating and strengthening our processes, and there are several safeguards in place to track and flag issues of fraud,” it said.
Uber added it would take “appropriate action” based on the outcomes of its investigation.
Uber responds to deteriorating service levels
An Uber spokesperson previously told Daily Investor that the safety of drivers and riders is their utmost priority.
They have launched several safety features, including an in-app emergency button, Audio Recording, RideCheck, and Safety Check-up.
Uber added that it has vehicle standards, including quality and age, that drivers must follow as part of the company’s requirements to sign up.
It said it had updated its policy as a guideline for drivers for certain types of rides and extended the vehicle age requirement from a minimum of 5 years to 8 years for all products.
Uber said that, while the reasons for cancellation of short trips vary, one of the reasons is driver preference, with some focusing their attention exclusively on longer journeys.
Traffic congestion, made worse during bouts of load-shedding, also plays a role in drivers avoiding shorter trips in built-up areas.
It is an issue Uber is working to resolve. “We increased the fares on short trips to make them more attractive to drivers,” it said.
“While we have seen some improvements, we know that more interventions are required to address this.”
Uber added that it continues to be open to discussing with drivers to understand their concerns.