My experience With Uber In Nigeria

Driver using Uber app

My experience of using Uber in Lagos was an eye-opener on how some Passengers/Riders are scammed especially if payment is made by debit/credit card. I fell a victim to some unscrupulous Uber Drivers as all my trips were automatically paid for via debit card I registered on my Uber account. I was therefore subjected to ‘cancellation fees of 400 Naira’ for each trip ‘cancelled’.

As per Uber’s policy, ‘Cancellation Fee’ of N400 is to compensate their Drivers for trips cancelled by Riders. Due to stringent Uber policy, Nigerian Uber Drivers found it extremely difficult to extort money from Riders and so some resort to scams such as accepting trips they know they might not make due to distance and traffic jam. When a trip is booked, Uber searches for ‘8 Nearby Drivers’.

A Rider may be far away from an Uber Driver and of course, after waiting longer than the expected arrival time displayed on the Uber App (application), some Drivers will instruct the Rider to cancel that he (Uber Drivers I had were males) is unable to pick up. This scenario was played out several times. I have since discovered that Uber Drivers do not have prior knowledge of their Rider’s destination until they arrive at the pickup point. Therefore, if a driver does not want the trip, after arriving at the pickup point, he can advise the Rider to cancel the trip, subsequently, the cancellation fee is applied (to the Rider’s account).

Drivers prefer not to cancel trips so as to avoid their rating being adversely affected. One could just imagine some crafty Drivers seating comfortably in their cars, picking up trips they will not take, yet collecting N400 for each cancellation! If the method of payment for my trips were in cash, cancellation fees would have been impossible.

Another scam is to accumulate mileage by deliberately taking a longer route to a Rider’s destination. Some Uber Drivers start the trip before arriving at the pickup point whilst others do not switch off the Uber App after the trip has ended. I later discovered the majority of my trips commenced before the Drivers arrived. Strange addresses appeared as my pick up points. It was easy for the Drivers to deduce I was on vacation in Nigeria because my contact number in the UK was clearly displayed on the Uber App. I learnt a lesson there. I should have changed it to a local number.

The culmination of my Uber experience was frightening when a Driver picked me from Lagos Island to the Mainland. I made two stops on the way to my final destination and Driver was happy to wait and charge for waiting time. Arriving at my final destination, I was charged N4518. Whilst in his car, I had a conversation with a friend that I was taking a trip to another location. Eavesdropping, the Driver said he would be willing to take the trip if I paid him in cash. He checked the Uber App for the fare, which was N2500. We agreed on the fare and left for the location to pick up a friend. The Driver offered to take me back home. Again, he checked Uber App for the fare and was about N3, 500. The total cash I was expected to pay was N6000 (excluding N4518 previously debited on my account for the initial trip).

The Driver took longer routes against our advice. On getting home, I gave the Driver N6, 000 but he refused and began threatening he would collect nothing less than N10, 000 cash. I declined to state that we did not agree on the inflated amount. My friend pleaded that I should give him extra N1, 000 and I complied. Still, the Driver refused to accept the money. Realising that the Driver could be a troublemaker, she advised I gave him another N1, 000 making a total of N8000 and I obliged. The Driver declined and angrily got out of the car and threw out our belongings including the money he was given, and drove off. A few hours later, I started receiving abusive telephone calls from him and other unknown numbers. This situation continued after I returned to the UK. He sent me threatening messages with my WhatsApp profile photograph. I contacted Uber with screenshots of the threatening text messages and call logs to my mobile phone. He had forgotten Uber had all his details including his photograph and mobile phone number.

Thankfully, Uber has a zero-tolerance policy on abuse of their Drivers and Riders. I was advised to report the matter to the police. This incident made me wonder if Uber conducts thorough background checks before signing up individuals as Uber Drivers. Some of them could have mental health issues and therefore a potential danger to Uber Riders.

Uber has since refunded ‘Cancellation Fees’ and as compensation to the harrowing experience endured, credited my account with the N4518 initially paid to the Driver.

Following tips might help for future Uber trips: (a) do not take/agree to an unauthorised/unrecorded Uber trip. If any mishap occurs, the Driver cannot be traced. S/he may deny any knowledge of the Rider (b) be mindful of conversations with the Driver or others over the phone (c) do not be overly friendly with a Driver. (d) if you know the route to your destination, tell the Driver.

Otherwise, you will be subjected to an endless sightseeing tour! (e) after each trip, check the charges, pick up and destination points (f) change your contact number on Uber App to a local number (g) make prompt query on charges (h) to avoid cancellation fees, cancel a trip within 2 minutes (i) before entering an Uber car, check your Driver’s name, contact number, car registration number and photograph. Always ask whom the Driver is picking up. Never give your name first (j) check for ‘Cancellation Fees’ if they relate to your trips – did you or the Driver cancel? If unsatisfied with the fees, contact Uber for prompt review of the fees (k) do not feel compelled to rate and/or tip the Driver. As a Rider, you are also being rated by the Driver (l) if the Driver appears aggressive, even if the trip has started and you do not feel comfortable; ask the Driver to end the trip or you do it. Get out of the car as soon as possible. Report incident to Uber immediately (m) if dissatisfied with the condition of the vehicle, report to Uber (n) If possible, pay cash for trips.

The Driver cannot charge for cancellation of a trip. If you cancel outside the allowed period, it may affect your Rider rating (o) report any form of abuse/threat to Uber and if necessary, the Police. Uber takes any form of abuse/threat very seriously (q) Uber Driver has no right to contact you after a trip has ended unless you have left an item in the car. Likewise the Rider.

It has to be noted that Uber Drivers have also had terrible experiences with some Riders.

On a progressive note, Uber relies heavily on feedback from both their Drivers and Riders. The Uber App is regularly enhanced with series of features. Google Maps used by Uber Drivers need to be more widespread outside the shores of Lagos. It was very encouraging to see the introduction of Uber Okada (Commercial motorcycle riders), with both Rider and Driver wearing helmets. Uber has certainly set the pace for other competitors like Taxify, Oga Taxi. Unfortunately, the Yellow local taxis that have been in existence for decades, like the Black Cabs in the UK, have had their businesses adversely affected.

Anne F. is a Freelance Writer based in the United Kingdom.

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