Uber pushes for arbitration in fares row with drivers in Kenya

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  • Last year, 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 has asked the High Court to refer to arbitration a dispute in which some Kenyan drivers have sued the ride-hailing platform over the reduction of fares by nearly half.

Uber Kenya and Uber B.V. said in an application that an agreement signed between them and the drivers urges them to refer any dispute to arbitration.

The Kenya drivers sued Uber in 2016 after it slashed charges as a response to mounting competition from local competitors.

The drivers argued that the move was a violation of their rights, as the new rates were below market rates, which would result in killing their business.

In the agreement

The Dutch online taxi company, however, says in the latest application that the parties are bound to refer any disputes between them to arbitration in accordance with the agreement.

“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,” Mr Kasigo Khaole, the head of central operations of Uber South Africa Technology Proprietary Ltd said in an affidavit.

Mr Khaole added that the parties entered into the agreements freely, “with full knowledge of its terms and particularly, the dispute resolution clause”.

He further denies the claims by the Kenyan Uber drivers in the statement and adding that it would be a waste of court’s time to keep the matter in court, yet there exists a clause that provides for arbitration.

“It is just and equitable to stay these proceedings and have the matter referred to arbitration,” he 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 without consulting them. They argued that Uber’s commission remained the same.

Documents filed in court state that the initial agreement with Uber was for customers to be charged Sh60 per kilometre with a minimum fare of Sh300.

The deal was also that Uber takes 25 percent from every trip while the fuel, driver, maintenance and all other related expenses were on the vehicle owner.

Reserve the right

Uber has argued that they reserve the right to change the pricing and rates as per the agreement.

Last year, 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 maintained that it is separate and distinct from Uber B.V.

Uber Kenya argued that some prayers were being sought against them, yet they had nothing to do with their grievances.

Justice Francis Tuiyott (now Court of Appeal judge) noted that although there was no contract between the drivers and Uber Kenya, there is a correspondence, which was filed in court, between Uber Kenya and the drivers, linking them to the Amsterdam-based firm.

The judge said the emails were written on behalf of Uber B.V. in respect to online contracts, which was the subject of the case.

“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.