Grab ordered to refund P5 million in excess charges

Jessica Fenol and Bruce Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 18 2019 10:53 AM | Updated as of Nov 18 2019 03:34 PM

MANILA - (UPDATE) The Philippines' antitrust monitor said Monday it ordered Grab to refund consumers P5 million in excess charges, as it approved a new set of voluntary commitments by the ride-hailing firm to ensure that it was not abusing its dominance.

The P5 million refund is part of a total P23 million in fines for several of Grab's violations of its own commitments from August last year to May this year. This includes failure to remove the "see destination feature" for some drivers, said Philippine Competition Commission member Johannes Bernabe.

Affected passengers can expect a refund within 60 days after Grab's receipt of the order. Refunds for future breaches will be shortened to 30 days, PCC Commissioner Amabelle Asuncion said.

The PCC said Grab enjoyed a "virtual monopoly" since the ride-hailing service bought out rival Uber. The body is "not happy" since it finished monitoring Grab's compliance with its own commitments last October, said PCC Chairman Arsenio Balisacan.

"What we're looking at with the merger is that the public will not suffer in terms of convenience, fare, so unfortunately we have not been able to achieve the ideal situation where it would be easy for a rider to hail a car and pay at a reasonably low cost," Balisacan told ABS - CBN News. 

"Obviously we're not happy because if we are happy then the competition landscape would have been restored. There would be no another undertaking," Balisacan said.

Grab was "overcharging" Balisacan said. The high rate of cancellation also shows the lack of competition, he said.

Excess charges occurred when Grab fares exceeded the 22.5 percent allowable deviation to the pre-merger pricing set by the PCC and transport agencies, Commissioner Asuncion said. 

Grab Philippines said it would pay the P5 million refund. Consumers will be informed of the payments 5 days prior to the release of the amount, it said.

The platform again promised to improve service, customer experience and pricing as well as observe non-exclusivity with partner drivers, Balisacan said.

The new set of commitments is effective for the next 4 years starting Nov. 1, enough time for a new player "to enter and grow" in the ride-hailing space, Balisacan said. 

"Normal for this kind of setting you really need to have a deep pocket like the kind of GoJek to come in, willing to lose money in the next several months or years to really able to provide an effective competition," Balisacan said. 

The competition watchdog approved the Grab-Uber deal subject to the fulfillment of certain voluntary commitments. A review of compliance with the commitments ended last Oct. 20.