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The Case Of False Bookings: Uber Sues Ola For $7.5 Mn

The Case Of False Bookings: Uber Sues Ola For $7.5 Mn

Last month, in a complaint filed in Delhi High Court, Uber had alleged that Ola employees and agents are making false bookings on its app. Now the company has sued Ola for $7.5 Mn (INR 50 Cr).

According to a Reuters report, a flurry of complaints from Uber drivers about an unusually high number of cancelled bookings sparked the bitter legal fight.

A seven-member internal team was setup to investigate the drivers’ complaints in November. Its findings are the basis of a lawsuit filed by Uber accusing Ola of a campaign to disrupt its business and poach its drivers, said the source.

As per the copy of the complaint with Inc42, Uber had alleged Ola of

  1. Creating over 90,000 rider accounts on Uber’s platform under fake names, email IDs and untraceable phone numbers
  2. Making over 400,000 false bookings and then cancelling them to ‘induce the termination/frustration of driver partner contracts
  3. Spreading false messages to Uber drivers to either get them shifted to Ola platform and with intent to incur losses to Uber

However, Ola denied the charges and issued an official statement which said that the allegations were ‘frivolous and false’ and that the lawsuit is Uber’s counter to the contempt proceedings pending against it in Delhi HC.

Uber is now suing Ola for $7.5 Mn to compensate for loss of revenue and goodwill. It claims that over 20,000 drivers have left the company’s platform due to Ola’s wrongdoing.

The broad outlines of the lawsuit were reported when it was filed last month. But a Reuters review of court filings and interviews with sources close to both sides have uncovered new details about how Uber says it was able to trace fake bookings and calls to Ola employees, and Ola’s response to the allegations.

How Uber Uncovered Ola’s Wrongdoing

Uber’s investigation identified locations and Internet protocol addresses of tens of thousands of users, who had booked and cancelled rides, using information logged when a new customer account is created on Uber’s platform, a source told Reuters.

In court documents, Uber says it found 660 accounts, used to make troublesome bookings, came from a building that houses Ola’s office in Pune. Most of the rest were created near Ola’s office in Bangalore, it said.

In the court filings, Uber said more than 23,000 of its drivers quit due to “illegal and wrongful interference” between September 2015 and February 2016.

The source close to Ola said the company had made its own checks and found no correlations in the thousands of data points submitted by Uber in its complaint, which included names and mobile phone numbers that apparently belongs to Ola employees.

The data could have been compiled in a few hours using names, business addresses and phone numbers linked to Ola that could be looked up online, the source said.

LinkedIn Profiles, Google Maps and Phone Numbers

Uber’s legal submissions included several images of LinkedIn profiles, locations pinpointed with Google Maps and hundreds of phone numbers it said belonged to people associated with Ola. Reuters called dozens of those numbers, but most were not operational.

One number cited in court documents, from which 74 cancellations were made, belonged to a user identified as Kisan Kumar.

When Reuters called the number, the person answering identified himself as college student Shashank Kumar in Pune and said Kisan was his brother. Shashank said he often used Uber and Ola but had not made repeated cancellations on the Uber platform. Reuters was unable to contact Kisan for comment.

Another number Reuters was able to connect to belonged to someone identified as “Shiv D” in Uber’s filings. He had allegedly created 30 fake accounts to book and cancel dozens of rides.

Shiv D said he had worked for Ola helping drivers get new cars, but denied Uber’s allegations and said he had since left the company.

The fake bookings are not the only accusation levelled by Uber against Ola.

Uber says one of its biggest losses came on New Year’s Eve, when drivers in New Delhi began getting calls around 5 p.m. telling them to shut off the ride-hailing app as there was a technical glitch that needed to be fixed.

When they checked back hours later to see if they could get back online they were told Uber had made no such calls.

Uber says in the court documents its investigation traced the source of the calls to two numbers registered in Ola’s name. Reuters was able to confirm by dialling that one of the numbers identified in the documents was an Ola call center.

The source close to Ola denied the same and said the company’s call center number was public information that Uber’s team could simply have looked up.

Acting on the complaint, Delhi High Court has issued a notice to OLA cabs over Uber’s plea alleging interference in business activities. The next hearing of the case is on September 14, 2016.