This is how Kenyan Uber drivers are robbing unsuspecting commuters blind

A rider hailed an Uber near the Chiromo roundabout to Ngong Road, a distance of less than four kilometres and was billed Sh1,900 ($19) for a distance of 17.6 kilometres.

  • The dummy apps extend the distance travelled by multiple times.
  • One passenger, for instance, was billed for 42 kilometres for a distance of about five kilometres.
  • Uber has acknowledged that it is aware of the dummy apps.

Some Kenyan Uber drivers are using dummy apps to extend the distance travelled by riders in order to charge them inflated fares, sometimes triple the correct amount, casting doubt on the accuracy and confidence in the automated billing system.

The dummy apps, which were first reported in Nigeria in late 2017, interfere with the Uber application’s location (GPS) readings to create a parallel travel path, prolong the journey and ultimately drive up the cost of the ride.

One passenger, for instance, last week boarded an Uber from a location on Nairobi’s Riverside drive to the city centre — a distance of about five kilometres — and upon ending the trip was billed for 42 kilometres, which costs Sh2,456 ($25) rather than an estimated Sh580 ($6)

Another rider also hailed an Uber near the Chiromo roundabout to Ngong Road, a distance of less than four kilometres, was billed Sh1,900 ($19) for a distance of 17.6 kilometres.

The commuter later filed a complaint with Uber and was immediately refunded Sh1,800 ($18) that the driver had stolen but most riders, however, do not check the data sent to their emails at the end of a trip to confirm their accuracy and in the process get robbed blind.

Uber has acknowledged that it was aware of the violations, which it said were in breach of its operating guidelines and urged commuters to be careful and always rate their experience.

“Uber is aware of these incidents. They are in clear violation of our Community Guidelines. Fraudulent activity undermines the trust on which Uber is built. That’s why we are constantly on the lookout for fraud by riders and driver-partners who are gaming our systems,” said Uber East Africa spokesperson Janet Kemboi.

Fraudulent billing by Uber drivers has been on the rise in Kenya since late 2017 when similar incidents were reported in Nigeria.

Reports showed that a test geofencing-based app Lockito was used by drivers to defraud their customers.

The app is used to generate a fake trip and a fake fare from the point a driver picks up a passenger to the point they end the trip.

In most cases, the app is able to start the trip long before the actual one begins and at the end of the journey, the passenger is presented with a cost tally of both the actual and fake trip as the app cannot differentiate the two.

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