FAS is investigating taxi fares
The Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has demanded explanations from taxi aggregators over price hikes in the New Year. Besides, companies have to answer the question why the cost of the same rides differs depending on a passenger's phone model. According to Forbes, such agreggators as Yandex.Taxi, DiDi, Citymobil and Gett have received a respective letter from antitrust inspectors.
The prices of rides in Moscow and Kazan will be checked. Dmitry Shatunov, Chairman of the Youth Parliament of the State Duma, asked to initiate the investigation. According to him, the aggregators overcharged the price tag by 30-50% on New Year's holidays. In addition, depending on the phone model, the cost of travel can vary by 10%, Shatunov notes:
"Prices become much higher than declared, and citizens suffer from this. What's more, Russia still has a web analytics system which analyses your device type and sets the charge depending on the cost. If you order a taxi from an expensive, new iPhone, for example, the price will be higher than if you do it from an Android phone. The difference is usually up to 10%.
The FAS has given the aggregators 10 days to respond. The agency asked the companies to provide data on journeys in Moscow and Kazan from November 1, 2020, to January 31, 2021, as well as from November 2021 to the end of January 2022.
Yandex Go told Kommersant FM that the cost of a trip is always formed automatically, taking into account the number of available cars, the weather, traffic load, the duration and length of the trip. Other factors, like the phone model, have nothing to do with the pricing. The company is in dialogue with the FAS and will respond to its request in a timely manner.
In autumn and winter, especially at New Year, taxis always cost more, says Polina Lomonosova, Head of Citymobil's press service: "There are many factors that affect the price of a taxi, it's the balance of supply and demand. As soon as the system notices an increase in interest, the price of a trip can go up because of the increasing coefficients, because the task of this whole system is to meet demand, distribute orders efficiently and load the cars that are currently on the line.
Now companies set their own fares, but this area could use regulation, says Stanislav Shvagerus, Head of the Competence Center of the International Eurasian Forum Taxi. However, according to him, this won't be possible any time soon:
"The antitrust and competition law has not yet adopted the fifth antitrust package, and the FAS has no tools to regulate the algorithms of digital platforms. Nor does it have any basis to charge aggregators with breach of competition rules. Therefore, the expected results of such enquiries to the service and its suspicions would potentially come to zero.
Questions about the price of taxis depending on the device have been around for a long time. Here we are talking about transparency of algorithms and the need to manage them and artificial intelligence in this area. That is quite a distant future. So far, only China has approached this issue.
The debate about taxi aggregators charging prices based on phone models has been going on in the media space for several years. The big companies insist that they do not use this data in pricing.
Kommersant FM conducted its own experiment and called a taxi from Moscow City to Red Square using an iPhone and an Android smartphone. The iPhone fare was higher. However, only by 7 rubles.