Chennai: After dropping off a passenger at the Asian College of Journalism, Sathyaraj, an Ola auto driver, got into a fight with the passenger over her opting to pay through Ola Money instead of cash.
The Chennai-native auto driver often gets into verbal arguments with his passengers, and he is not the only one. App-based auto and cab drivers in Chennai often end up quarreling with the passengers over digital payment in an era where the government is pushing towards digitizing the economy.
The reason why Ola drivers refuse digital payments is because the Company does not reimburse their daily earnings on time. “All [..] outstanding payments at the end of a day are paid to [the driver’s] bank account within two working days,” reads Ola’s company policy. However, several drivers in the city claim that this is not always the case.
‘Ola Money’ is a system that allows customers to make online payments directly to the company, either through debit or credit cards. After each cab ride, money is automatically withdrawn from the customer’s balance, effectively eliminating cash payments to drivers.
An attempt to break this late-payment cycle can be seen in the city with several drivers flatly refusing rides that entail payment by Ola Money, despite the prospect of their customers negatively rating them. This adversely affects both the passengers and the drivers.
The repeated cancellation of trips and refusal to take online payment has become a major ordeal for Ola customers. Several commuters say that they are facing a hard choice between running around to the nearest ATM after every ride or waiting for a long time to find a driver willing to accept Ola money.
Drishti Sharma, a frequent Ola customer, says that an auto driver yelled at her for choosing the e-wallet option. Drishti ended up paying twice for the same trip and didn’t get any refund from the company.
The reluctance among Ola drivers to accept digital payments is pushing the customers away from Ola and towards Uber, whose driving partners are more welcoming towards digital payments. “When I tell drivers I’m paying with Ola Money, they typically cancel the journey, leaving me stranded. Rebooking and waiting for another auto takes time, which is especially inconvenient at night. As a result, I now prefer Uber to Ola,” says Samiksha Sharma, another frequent app-based auto commuter.
Shankar.T, who has been driving Ola auto since the company came to the city, says that the Company doesn’t pay any heed to the complaints filed by the drivers against Ola Money. “But my Ola account gets blocked if three customers complain against me for refusing digital payments. Then I have to go to the Ola office with my AADHAR card and offer an explanation to resume the services,” he adds.
Ola remains unavailable to make a comment on this issue.
Anindita Ghosh, an Urban Transport Expert at the Institute of Urban Transport, says that this reluctance towards digital payments might mean the “downfall” of Ola but not of such app-based transport services because the people have got accustomed to the services- cheap rates and door-to-door services – provided by these service providers.