By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA

Many drivers operating on the platforms of Uber, Bolt and other ride-hailing firms in the country have devised means to sidestep paying the high commission charged by the firms in order to make more profit, Business Hallmark can reveal.

A source in one of the ride-hailing firms who spoke with BH on the matter, lamented that the decision of some of its drivers to bypass the company’s app in their bid to avoid paying commission charges is costing the firm millions in lost revenues.

It would be recalled that the two leading ride-hailing firms in the country, Uber and Bolt (formerly Taxify), have been having a running battle with their drivers over allegations of poor pay and working conditions.

On April 19, 2021, Bolt and Uber and drivers under the aegis of the Professional E-hailing Drivers and Partners Association (PEDPA), had embarked on a strike action to protest inadequate pay.

The protesting drivers had claimed that the two companies charge excessive commissions while keeping prices low for riders, even as maintenance and petrol prices increase.
Checks revealed that while Uber charges drivers 25% commission, Bolt charges 20%.
The drivers, while maintaining that the fares they are allowed to charge by the companies did not reflect the current economic reality in the country, demanded an upward review of fares, as well as a reduction in the commissions charged by the companies.

The strike action did not last, as the two companies made a major shift to accommodate the drivers. For instance, Uber increased the fares charged by its driver-partners in Lagos by 13%. It, however, left the commission charged on each trip undertaken by its drivers at 25%, insisting that the commission covers the cost of running its app.

However, it seems the truce is not working as drivers, dissatisfied with the new terms, are daily finding means to make more profit, albeit to the detriment of the ride-hailing firms.
One of the measures adopted by the drivers is by dealing directly with passengers while operating offline. The systems works with the drivers switching off their apps when ferrying passengers, mostly familiar faces, to their destinations.

An Uber driver whose service was contracted by our correspondent far back in September, was called upon to convey him to the Eko Hotel and Suites last Sunday after other drivers on the firm’s app had declined to undertake the trip.

The driver had given this writer his phone number during the September trip to contact him directly anytime he needed a ride.
On Sunday, November 7, he agreed to embark on the journey to Victoria Island, Lagos, after negotiating a fee of N4,000 for the one-way trip.
One why he resorted to giving his passengers his phone numbers directly, instead of having them contact him through the app, the driver said dealing with passengers offline has been more profitable since he embarked on it.

“Oga, the company (Uber) is very greedy. How can they be charging as much as 25% commission on every trip i make. You can imagine, they would have taken N1,000 from the N4,000 I charged you if the transaction was done online.

“Yet, i still have other services to pay for. The least fuel i can use from here (Olaniyi in New Oko-Oba, Agege) to Eko Hotel is N1,000. That is because the car is relatively new and is fuel efficient, as well as the fact that today is Sunday with less traffick.

“That is N2,000 less of the N4,000 I charged you. We have not even talked of the weekly payments of N40,000 I normally make for the car as I got it on hire purchase.

“By the time all deductions are made, I will be lucky to be left with N500 profit on this trip. So, I prefer operating offline as I make more money fixing the price and without paying commissions to anyone”, disclosed the Uber driver.

Another driver working on tge Bolt platform, Bayo James (not real names), said more drivers will continue to cut corners as long as the commission charged by ride-hailing firms remain high.

“We (drivers) will continue to make losses as long as the firms we operate on their platforms refuse to reduce their commissions.

“When the price of petrol was lower, they were taking 20% commission. Now that fuel sells for N165, they still want to be collecting 20% on every trip that we make. Though, I am not involved in the act, the high commission is serving as an incentive to some of my colleagues who indulged in the act”, declared the driver.

Another ride-hailing driver who refused to disclose the e-hailing firm he works for, confessed to BH that he started working offline since March 2021 after a colleague introduced him to the trick.

“I won’t lie to you, I am also involved. But I am very careful in choosing who I do business with. Normally, we assess our passengers, and only give our numbers to friendly and respectable looking men and women to call on us whenever they need our services.

“Some, particularly those living in our neighbourhood, even asked for our numbers in case they want to contact us. We do take or pick them from airports. So, why should I pay my operator a commission for a trip that didn’t originate from them”, he queried.

The National President of the Professional E-hailing Drivers and Partners Association, Idris Shonuga, said that the conditions under which ride-hailing drivers are operating are not profitable.

“After daily expenditure of N4,950 on fuel and deductions of around N3,750 by Uber and Bolt, drivers may be left with as little as N6,300 for 10-15 hours’ work.

“Unfortunately, many of the drivers do not own the cars they use for the e-hailing business and also have to pay weekly or monthly fees to the car owners. At the end of the day, we (drivers) go home with virtually nothing. It is very tough for people who are driving for others,” Shonuga noted.

However, a staff of Uber, one of the e-hailing firms, advised drivers to desist from the practise of working online to attract more income, warning that the practise exposes them to high risks of attacks.

“In their own interest, they should desist from the act as it is very dangerous. It exposes them to serious risk as they cannot ne monitored, even when they are in harms way.
“Several cases have been recorded where some of these drivers were brutally attacked, or even killed by criminally minded passengers they picked while offline.

“Unfortunately, we could not help them on most occasions because we could not trace them as their trackers have been switched off.
“Be rest assured that measures are being put in place to check such unprofessional acts”, the Uber representative assured.

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