"On Friday a driver called Martin Luther was picking me up and my estimated price was Shillings 5,000. However the driver told me I would have to top up by 10,000 because there was traffic jam," Kimera said.
Some Bolt cab drivers have stopped using the billing system on the company
application and resorted to fixing prices. Normally, when one
orders a Bolt cab or Boda boda, the application gives an indicative fare.
On a good day without traffic jam, customers get
to pay either what the application showed or even less than what was indicated.
During peak hours, a surge fee of 1.5 percent is added onto the fare.
However, some Bolt cab drivers have taken matters into their own hands. When a
customer orders for a cab after 7:00 pm, such drivers make the courtesy call to
establish the location of the passenger but also caution them about the fare.
Kimera is one of the victims of the extortion. "On Friday a driver called
Martin Luther was picking me up and my estimated price was Shillings 5,000.
However the driver told me I would have to top up by 10,000 because there was
traffic jam," Kimera said.
Our reporter URN tried using the
Bolt application and went through a similar. A driver only identified as Shafic
informed the reporter that they would have to double the fare because the
application had stopped billing clients. Later, Shafic informed the
reporter that the top up was to cover costs of fuel and vehicle rental.
//Cue in; “Byakutesa…
Some cab users told URN that the cab company needs to make it more profitable for drivers if they want to
maintain their clients. Maria Kalule, a resident of Muyenga says that the
increase in the fares is unfortunate because many people had begun warming up
to the cab service.
She says Bolt needs to sit down with the cab
driver and revise rates so that customer are protected.
//Cue in; “Kati nze ebintu…
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Sarah Nantume says the practice of drivers increasing the
taxi fares isn’t new. She says she suspects that it something that Bolt is well
aware of but is not interested in addressing.
“After cheating you, the moment you complain to the company,
you are given your money back. They give you a promotion and this has been
happening since the beginning. The only difference now is that you do not get
to complain because the driver warns you before setting off to come pick you
that he is hiking the price. So you are warned,” Nantume said.
Elizabeth Kintu, another cab user says that due to the many
irregularities that she has encountered with taxi services in the country, she
has resorted to warning drivers not to think about increasing the fare before
she enters their cars.
//Cue in; “I’ve heard two…
Cue out…candid conversation.”//
She however, notes that the company
needs to revise its charges because most drivers are pushed into cheating customers
due to low fares.
//Cue in; “Some journeys really…
Cue out…for them.”//
Timothy Gabula, a student at Makerere University says
that something needs to be done urgently by Bolt to rescue both their drivers
//Cue in; “I got a…
Cue out…of Bolt.”//
An employee the Bolt Help desk, who only identified herself
as Sandra, told our reporter that some of the differences in fares are caused
by drivers using phones with poor Global Positioning Systems-GPS. The
company tried to address the problem last year by banning phones that were deemed to have poor GPS. Ankunda, one of the few
female Bolt drivers says that the phones are not the problem but rather the way
the company wants to make back its investment.
"How can you expect a Taxi driver to
afford an iphone or Samsung phone worth Shillings 2 million? The phone ban was
useless. Other companies still use those phones that were banned but their
customers don’t complain about being cheated. Drivers are cheating because the
company is giving them very little money on each ride," Ankunda said.
URN tried to get a comment from the management of Bolt Uganda as none of the employees was willing to
talk. Bolt is an international company with branches in over 35 countries in
the world. It was founded by Markus Villing in 2013. It entered the Ugandan
market in 2018 after it bought Taxify, another cab services provider that was
already operational in the country.