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MANILA, Philippines – The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) asked ride-hailing firm JoyRide why its accreditation should not be revoked over the implementation of a priority fee feature on its platform.
JoyRide users have been given the option to pay extra so that their bookings would be “prioritized,” which, in effect, would lead to drivers choosing bookings with priority fees over others without such charges.
To add a priority fee, users need to book first. The “add priority fee” feature appears once a user confirms his or her booking.
Users can choose either P20, P50, P100, or P200. But they can also opt for a “custom fee” which could reach up to P1,000.
In a letter dated May 24, JoyRide was asked to submit a written explanation to the regulatory board on why its accreditation as a transportation network company (TNC) should not be revoked. The letter was triggered by a complaint.
LTFRB Executive Director Tina Cassion said the complaint was lodged only against JoyRide. There were no complaints filed against other TNCs, but the regulatory board also sent letters to E-pick Me Up, Ipara, Grab Philippines, and Cloud Panda, warning against excessive fares.
“Although the LTFRB did not directly receive any complaints [about] other TNCs, the agency saw it fit to also write the other TNCs warning them against the imposition of excessive fare contrary to current guidelines on TNVS (transport network vehicle service) fares,” the LTFRB said in a statement on Thursday, June 2.
In its own statement on Thursday, JoyRide said it responded to the May 24 letter three days later on May 27, explaining that users can see the amount charged per booking.
The LTFRB, according to JoyRide, acknowledged receipt of the company’s email on Monday, May 30. JoyRide added that the Thursday statement “comes as a complete surprise” to them.
“For clarity, a priority fee is an optional fee that customers can freely add to the total fare of the booking. It is an industry-used term and practice in case a customer would like to tip or incentivize a driver-partner in advance,” JoyRide senior vice president for corporate affairs Noli Eala said.
No LTFRB approval
Asked for a response, Cassion told Rappler that the LTFRB has not approved the priority fee feature.
“The letter of explanation was acknowledged ‘as received,’ in light of the ongoing investigations. However, this does not mean and should not be construed as tacit approval of this scheme,” Cassion said.
“No board resolution was issued by the [LTFRB] with regard to the imposition of priority boarding fees. Hence, TNCs should stick to what is in the MC (memorandum circular) on fare structures for TNVS,” she added.
The LTFRB said that based on MC 2015-016-A, TNCs are required to make their rate structure transparent before a potential passenger confirms a ride.
Under MC 2019-036, TNCs have a flag-down rate for sedans, with a fare of P15 per kilometer and travel rate of P2 per minute. Surge pricing is capped at twice the distance and per minute of travel.
Cassion encouraged the public to report to the LTFRB’s hotline 1342 if drivers refuse to accept passengers for not adding priority fees. Refusing to convey passengers has a penalty of P5,000 for the first offense.
The regulatory board also plans to deploy mystery passengers to check the compliance of TNCs and drivers. – Rappler.com