The race to dominate India’s taxi market has taken a bitter turn with Uber of the US accusing a local rival, OlaCab, of using dirty tricks to disrupt its business.
In a lawsuit filed in the Delhi High Court, the San Francisco-based ride-hailing app alleges that Ola employees made more than 400,000 false bookings, summoning Uber drivers to fetch passengers who never materialised. To do so they created 93,000 fake rider accounts, the complaint alleges.
Uber, which has invested $1bn in India over the past nine months, says the bookings cost it nearly $8,000 in cancellation fees to frustrated drivers.
The fake bookings were “intended to block the availability of taxis” and divert business to Ola, resulting in lost revenues to Uber and its drivers, and “frustrating?.?.?.?and scaring” them, the petition claims.
Uber has sought $7.4m in damages from Ola for “deliberately, unlawfully, wrongfully, maliciously, falsely?.?.?.?interfering” in its business.
Ola, which is based in Bangalore, said in a statement the charges were “false and frivolous”. It did not use dirty tricks, it said. “We are categorically denying it.”
But yesterday Jugnoo, a Chandigarh-based company whose tech platform matches autorickshaws with passengers, made allegations against Ola. Samar Singla, co-founder and chief executive, said Jugnoo had received a surge of 20,000 bookings from 800 fake accounts, leading to a waste of time and lost earnings for rickshaw drivers.
The company found that nearly all the bookings had come from close to Ola offices — two in the greater Delhi area and one in south India.
“We are planning to take suitable action against Ola for the same, but will refrain from doing so if they cease to do this,” Mr Singla said in a statement.
Allegations of dirty tricks highlight the rising stakes for Uber, Ola and other transport providers in India, where just 6 per cent of households own a car .
Uber and Ola are competing fiercely for customers and drivers, many of whom are enrolled on both platforms.
In its court petition Uber said some of the fake bookings appeared intended to obtain the contact details of its “driver-partners”, who then received “malicious” phone calls and text messages.
More than 23,000 Indian drivers had left its platform from September to February as a result of harassment, it said. Some email addresses used to set up fake accounts appeared to belong to Ola employees, while many bookings were from the area around Ola offices.