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Uber Pushes for Arbitration in Fares Dispute with Drivers in Kenya

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Uber has asked the High Court to refer to arbitration a dispute in which some Kenyan drivers sued the ride-hailing platform over the reduction of fares by almost half.

The Kenyan drivers sued the ride-hailing company in 2016 after it dropped ride charges on the platform because of mounting competition from local competitors.

Uber and Uber B.V claim that they signed an agreement with the drivers that urges them to refer any disputes to arbitration.

The drivers’ initial complaint was that decreasing the charges by nearly half was a violation of their rights and that the new rates were below the market rates. The drivers claimed that the move was killing their business.

“I am advised by the 2nd defendant’s (Uber B.V) Advocate on record, which advice I verily believe to be true, that there are no justifiable reasons to warrant a departure from the terms of the agreements,” Kasigo Khaole, the head of central operations of Uber South Africa Technology Proprietary Ltd said in an affidavit.

Khaole said all parties entered into the agreements freely, with full knowledge of the terms, particularly the dispute resolution clause, Business Daily reported.

Khaole, according to Business Daily, denies Kenya Uber drivers’ claims and says that it would be a waste of time to take the matter to court when there’s an option to resort to arbitration.

“It is just and equitable to stay these proceedings and have the matter referred to arbitration,” Khaole said.

Kanuri Ltd, which is in the public transport business with a fleet of 17 vehicles and 33 other drivers sued Uber, saying it drastically cut the fare rates by 35 percent and the minimum fare to Sh200 ($1.72) without consulting them, Business Daily reported. They also argued that Uber’s commission remained the same.

According to documents filed in court, the initial agreement with Uber was for customers to be charged Sh60 ($0.52) per kilometre with a minimum fare of Sh300 ($2.59).

The ride-hailing company says that they reserve the right to change the pricing and rates as per the agreement.

According to Business Daily, the High Court dismissed an application by Uber Kenya, seeking the removal of its name from the case, saying they were not party to the contract. Uber Kenya also maintained that it is distinct and separate from Uber B.V.

Justice Francis Tuiyott noted that there was no contract between Uber Kenya and the drivers. There was, however, correspondence that was filed in court, between Uber Kenya and the drivers.

The judge said that the emails were made on behalf of Uber B.V with respect to online contracts, which was the subject of the case. Uber B.V is a Dutch company that supposedly owns the technology behind the Uber app.

“It is, therefore, not a trifle for when the plaintiffs (drivers) allege that there is a connection between Uber Kenya and Uber B.V.,” the judge said.

By Zintle Nkohla 

Follow Zintle Nkohla on Twitter

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