Grab claims LTFRB knew about ₱2 per minute charge

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 17) — Ride-hailing company Grab turned the tables on the government’s transport regulatory body on Tuesday, saying that it informed the agency last year of the per-minute charges it imposes on passengers.

During the hearing before the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Grab maintained it is legal and consistent with the transportation department order in 2015 that allows transport network vehicle services (TNVS) to set their own fares subject to government regulators' oversight.

“What the time element allowed us to do was: One, normalize drivers' income para itama ang kinikita nila sa byaheng ginagawa nila (so we can align their income with the trips they do). Pangalawa po diyan, it normalizes trips na sobrang tagal on the road (Second, it normalizes trips to offset those who stay longer on the road),” said Grab Philippines Country Head Brian Cu.

But LTFRB put its foot down.

“You have to be transparent to the board. If I have to say this, nagrereklamo ‘yung ibang denomination [the other denominations are complaining] in your application for renewal of accreditation, you made no mention of a time rate,” said LTFRB chairman Martin Delgra.

Apart from the P2 per minute charges, Grab also follows a fare structure based on distance: ₱12 per kilometer for trips between 0 — 2 kilometers, ₱10 per kilometer for trips between 2 to 6 kilometers, and ₱13 per kilometer for trips that stretch beyond six kilometers. Cu said this allows their partner drivers to earn even if they only drive for short distances.

This is on top of the flagdown rate of ₱40.

The fare goes even higher when there's a fare surge during rush hour.

Cu said the charges are based on algorithm. LTFRB decried the confusing fare structure.

Ang punto natin dito nakakalito [The point is it is confusing]. And kung nakakalito ‘yan [And if it is confusing], it might amount to a misleading representation,” he said.

PBA party-list representative Jericho Nograles, who revealed Grab's alleged illegal per-minute charge, found the explanation about the algorithm unacceptable.

Nograles insisted that the company should refund customers for the ₱1.8 billion it supposedly collected from them illegally in the last five months.

Yun po ang problema natin kasi ‘pag-algorithm based mas mahirap na mamonitor especially na hindi nakikita ng rider ang breakdown ng fares (The problem is because it’s based on an algorithm, passengers cannot see the breakdown of fares),” he said.

LTFRB ordered the company to disclose when it started to impose the travel time rate and how many customers were charged ₱2 per minute on a monthly basis. Another hearing on the matter is set on May 29.