Uber may need to Indianise payment solution sooner

Trust your competitors to bring you down. I would file this under the dirty tricks department.

Uber has been expanding pretty fast around India, and now offers services around ten cities. Cashless transactions and on-demand services are their differentiators, and I love the fact that I don’t have to deal with cash when I get out of the car, and it goes automatically on my credit card.

In India, all credit card transactions are supposed to go through a 2-factor authentication. For offline purchases, this is Chip+PIN (+Signature as well, yet!). For online purchases, this means a One Time Password or Visa/MasterCard online authentication. Uber bypassed it by using a gateway based in the Netherlands. All the homegrown services such as Meru and Ola did not like this, and hence they decided to challenge this with the Reserve Bank of India. 

The Reserve Bank of India has closed this loophole now, by insisting that if the card is issued in India, and the service/goods are being provided in India, then the transaction needs to be handled by a bank based in India only. Also, the 2-factor implementation will need to be put in place for transactions in India.

Uber does not have much time on hand, since they are only allowed to keep their current arrangement till end of October 2014.  I’m sure they have already been working on a customised arrangement for India, such as their arrangements in the USA with PayPal, and with American Express (which allows instant redemption of Membership Rewards points for rides). Uber anyways needs to implement the ability to charge Debit Cards in India as well, and I’m hoping the innovation company can read the rules up in their favour and continue to be a seamless experience.

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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. Hi,
    Just curious if a person’s credit in Uber account in USA could be utilized while on a trip in India? Thank you in advance for any inputs.

  2. @Anon: Uber in Mumbai is at best a hit/miss. Every time I have booked an Uber they send an Innova. Many times the driver won’t start the trip citing Internet problems. Heck I have shared my 3G connection on personal hotspot with these drivers to make sure they don’t give me the Internet not working excuse. Most of these drivers will give one excuse or another and try to take cash payment from you. I later came to know that most of these Uber cars are travel agencies and these drivers work on salaries. They don’t give a damn whether their company made money or not. Uber don’t give a damn as well! Agreed Meru/Ola services aren’t perfect but you don’t feel so helpless with Meru/Ola.

  3. And not sure why you say Uber is miles ahead – in Mumbai, where 9 out of 10 times I get an Innova, a 50% premium above Meru isn’t justified. Add to it the unprofessionalism I faced from Uber drivers (cancelling trips after accepting the ride, turning up late etc., and bove experience of course), really don’t think Uber even stands at par.

  4. @Anon, while I am no big fan of Meru or Ola, I feel Uber’s was of charging through credit cards is a double edged sword. As I mentioned above, an Uber driver acted on his whims and fancies and ended a trip and there was nothing I could do, but to call cops, and believe me that wasn’t a pleasent experience. What surprises me the most is the way Uber just refuses to take any responsibility for this.

  5. @Manish – You seem to solely pick on Uber. You ever tried Meru or Ola or any of the other taxi companies? Uber may not be perfect but they’re miles ahead of Ola, Meru etc.

  6. @Rajat: Sorry to hear about your trouble but why am I not surprised? Its the company culture. It’s not just one or two rouge drivers or employees. It’s the entire company! It comes from the very top. Unethical practices to kill competition, circumvent laws etc. I guess given this culture they tend to attract drivers/employees who fit perfectly well in the company environment. There have been multiple instances where passengers have felt cheated. They aren’t very good with their drivers as well. Regularly feed misinformation to prevent these drivers from working for a competitor. Wait until their dynamic pricing hits India – charges/disputes will go through the roof.

  7. I am glad this happened. The current arrangement gives Uber drivers full authority to manage trips which I don’t like. A few days back, I told my cab guy to wait for 5 min during the trip. The moment 5 min got over, he ended the trip and turned off the GPS, so I could not book his can again (the other Uber cab was 50 min away). This left me stranded with my 70 y/o folks and a 4 y/o child. A meru guy could not have done this without taking payment from me.

    On a different note, I had to call cops to force that guy to start another trip. I wonder if Uber has any control over the drivers. There have been occasions when drivers have cancelled trip after accepting at their end. While Uber does not own cars, I assume they are accountable for service quality, an aspect which Uber has till now refused to accept.

    I may mnemonic cribbing too much, but there have been occasions when promo codes haven’t worked. My master card code was supposed to work for first 2 rides but Uber conveniently chose to apply for 2nd and 3rd ride in which the trip cost was much lower.

    I think it’s a shame the way Uber has been running so far. The above instances would not have happened if this automatic debt of cards wasn’t there.

  8. Uber is known to play dirty tricks (borderline illegal) on its competitors. Its high time this unethical company got a taste of its own medicine. Glad RBI closed the loophole and created a level playing field.

  9. This always seemed to be on the cards. As a user, I like the flexibility of being able to cancel the cab, if needed, without bearing any cost. So I’m glad that the likes of Ola aren’t going to same way.

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