Kenyans were yesterday forced to pay tripple taxi fares following a boycott by at least 700 digital taxi drivers.
The go-slow, which involved Uber, Littlecab, Taxify and Mondo drivers was held at Uhuru Park and outside City Hall and is set to continue until their grievances are adressed.
“Sorry, no drivers available at the moment please try again in a few minutes,” read a pop-up alert message that many online taxi users received whenever they tried to get a ride.
While at Uhuru Park, the drivers went offline as they demanded to be heard by their respective service providers.
At around 12:45pm, there were no drivers under the basic package for little cabs.
As at 1:52pm, a quick search of Uber and Little rides showed that there were no available cabs from Westlands to Town house.
By 2:51pm, Taxify sent an e-mail update to their users confirming that they are working to improve the availability of drivers.
“In the event that you are unable to order for a ride on our app due to availability, please try again after a while. Normal operations should be restored soon,” read the e-mail update.
However, some of the drivers took advantage of the go-slow to hike their prices due to the limited number of active drivers, especially in Nairobi, vis-a-vis an increasing demand for the services.
The opportunist drivers charged Sh3,000 up from Sh1,000 from the city centre to the airport.
To show their seriousness, some of the drivers camped along Mombasa Road and Thika Road, stoping their colleagues who were working against the agreed plan and forced them to park on the road side or face their wrath “I usually pay at most Sh700 from Kahawa West to town, today I was told Sh1,850, Uber ride is becoming unbearable,” a frequent Uber user told the Star.
Some users also complained of a delay in the mobile applications in terms of getting a response while searching for a ride. For some, the drivers contact was not accessible.
Speaking to the Star on phone, Online Taxi Association chairman Daniel Omondi said the ongoing price wars between the services providers is what has prompted them to go on the streets.
“The service providers are exploiting us and we are really suffering, we carry the burden when they keep reducing and increasing prices without consulting us, we want to see a difference,” Omondi said. Others complained of facing immense pressure from banks to pay loans despite earning what they termed as peanuts from the taxi business. They said that to remain in business, the prices must be reviewed.
The drivers are demanding a minimum charge of Sh300, a low of Sh45 and a high of Sh60 per kilometre across all service providers.
During the strike, the drivers outside City Hall were addressed by Nairobi County deputy governor Polycarp Igathe after presenting their grievances to him.
In his response, Igathe scheduled a meeting with the drivers on Monday 18, according to the Digital Taxi Association chairman David Muteru.
Muteru, who was among taxi officials that met Parliament Transport Committee in June last year, blamed the former Nairobi County government for ignoring their predicaments.
“We have faith in the new Nairobi County government, taxi business is a devolved system and we hope our Monday meeting with Igathe will bear fruit,” he said.
Asked if they have received any of the grievances from drivers, Little Cab said they have seen none.
On pricing demands, Uber said surge pricing is calculated through an automated algorithm which determines the demand or supply ratio hence it would be difficult to see how a third party could represent the drivers’ interests.