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Bolt Fights Back In Licensing Hitch With Transport Regulator

Ride-hailing company reaffirms its long term commitment in Kenya

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Ride-hailing services operator, Bolt, has moved to assure the market that it is not being driven out of Kenya due to a licensing row with the industry regulator, the National Transport And Safety Authority (NTSA). NTSA had indicated it was not renewing Bolt’s operational licence due to what it termed as complains from drivers and their representatives.

NTSA Acting Director General Cosmas Ngeso said the authority had received several formal complaints regarding alleged non-compliance and violations of the provisions of Transportation Network Companies (TNC), Owners, Drivers and Passengers Regulations, 2022.

“The most pressing concerns are in relation to commission charges and an illegal booking fee which has caused significant concern amongst the driver community,” Mr Ngeso said in a response to Bolt licence renewal application. He said there evidence, that the online taxi company was charging commission rates higher than the stipulated 18%, and unauthorized booking fee, which violated sub-regulation (2) (g) of the TNC regulations.

Bolt, however, came to strongly defend its market position, saying it would not quit the market. “We would like to reaffirm our commitment to the Kenyan market. Adherence to Kenyan regulations remains a top priority as it is foundational to building a long-term sustainable business that positively contributes to all stakeholders in the ecosystem,” the company said in a statement.

“We remain open to collaborative dialogue with our regulator, driver partners and the wider public to continually ensure full compliance with regulation and expand income generation within our platform.”

It said during its tenure of over seven years in the market, it has actively sought input from both government as well as driver partners, to ensure it remains within the guidelines provided by the government. “As such, Bolt currently has a valid licence and is fully operational,” Ms Ndungu said. “As part of the ongoing annual licence renewal process, we will continue to work closely with the regulator for a fruitful result.”

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Last year, in fulfilment of the licensing requirements, Bolt was issued with a Transport Network Company licence, effective 28th October 2022. The statement says the company has been fully compliant with the stipulated regulation to cap its commission rate at 18% for drivers using its application.

“To ensure efficiency on our platform and the continued innovation and enhancement of our technological features, Bolt charges a fixed percentage booking fee that is paid by the passenger,” said the statement issued by Bolt Country Manager Linda Ndungu.

The regulations are in place to prevent online taxi service providers from charging their drivers more than 18 per cent commission. The regulation also bars taxi-hailing apps from charging booking fees as additional charges on drivers beyond the commissions.

In light of the complaints made, Ngeso urged Bolt to urgently provide NTSA with a concrete plan of action outlining steps the company intends to take to rectify the situation.

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Ms Ndungu listed significant milestones coming in 2024 for the Bolt business in Kenya including a planned investment of 100 million euros in the market to further increase footprint across the country by expanding services into more cities and town centres

Bolt, which entered the Kenyan market in 2016 under the name Taxify, says it recently launched its Driver Engagement Center in efforts to enhance its driver relations and address issues faced by drivers in their daily operations. The driver engagement centre is located at Delta Chambers in the Westlands area and is accessed on an appointment basis to ensure seamless and effective management of driver issues.

“We continue to provide additional support through our Driver App as well as via our online platforms,” she said. “Over and above the existing features on our Driver App, we continue to meet with our driver community and driver groups from time to time and are also constantly working on the holistic driver experience, to provide the support they need to be successful in their businesses.”

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Bill Yaura is a Correspondent for Business Today. He can be reached on email: [email protected]
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