Uber’s rival Ola has been banned in London over safety concerns

Monday, 5th October 2020, 3:28 pm
Updated Monday, 5th October 2020, 3:29 pm
(Photo: NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo: NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)

A cab company which launched in London in February has been banned from operating by Transport for London (TfL).

Ola is an Indian ridesharing company that had hoped to rival Uber in the capital.

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What is Ola?

Founded in Mumbai in 2010 by entrepreneur Bhavish Aggarwal, Ola Cabs is now headquartered in Bangalore. It is thought to have a network of 1.5 million drivers across 250 cities globally.

The company first made the move to the UK in March 2019, offering services in South Wales, Bristol and Exeter.

Ola launched in London a year later, with 25,000 drivers registered to provide their skills for the company.

Why did TfL ban Ola?

Just eight months later, the company was told it cannot operate within London by TfL, the capital’s transport authority.

According to TfL, Ola failed to report discrepancies – including over 1,000 rides that were made by unlicensed drivers – as soon as it knew about them.

"Through our investigations we discovered that flaws in Ola's operating model have led to the use of unlicensed drivers and vehicles in more than 1,000 passenger trips, which may have put passenger safety at risk," Helen Chapman, TfL's director of licensing, regulation and charging, said.

Why else is Ola controversial?

(Photo: NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)

Ridesharing apps and services have often come under scrutiny. Ola is no different, and the company has seen a lot of criticism drawn over the technology behind it.

Charging errors caused by technical glitches in Ola’s system have led to widespread condemnation of its refund policy.

Customers have also lamented the service’s ‘surge pricing' which can see the same ride cost different amounts depending on the time, day and the profiles, history and rating of the passenger.

In August 2016, a privacy breach saw customers' names, phone numbers and addresses leak.

Ola reportedly ignored this news in the face of threats of being reported to TRAI, the regulator of the telecommunications sector in India, and the story received considerable coverage and attention in the country.

Perhaps much more seriously, in 2019 a passenger killed an Ola driver to steal his car in the Indian city of Pune.

Two other murders of Ola drivers by robbers previously took place in New Delhi and Agra.

Can I still use Ola?

Ola has said it will be launching an appeal against TfL’s decision, and has 21 days to do so.

It will still be able to continue running in London while that process is underway.

"Ola will take the opportunity to appeal this decision and in doing so, our riders and drivers can rest assured that we will continue to operate as normal, providing safe and reliable mobility for London,” Marc Rozendal, Ola's UK Managing Director, said in a statement.

"We have been working with TfL during the review period and have sought to provide assurances and address the issues raised in an open and transparent manner.”

Tfl’s Helen Chapman said: "If they do appeal, Ola can continue to operate and drivers can continue to undertake bookings on behalf of Ola.

“We will closely scrutinise the company to ensure passengers safety is not compromised."

A version of this article originally appeared on our sister title, the Yorkshire Evening Post