Ride-sharing service Ola has engaged debt collectors to chase down customers affected by a widespread problem that prevented the Ola App from collecting credit card payments correctly.
The technical problem with Ola’s App has impacted a large number of its ride-share customers that used the service around December 2019, including multiple Australian Frequent Flyer members. Many of these customers were unaware that their credit cards had not been charged correctly by Ola until they discovered their accounts had been suspended for non-payment, or they received threatening emails. These customers had used the service in good faith and were surprised to discover that they were unable to book any more rides due to amounts being owed.
Numerous customers say they subsequently tried to contact Ola’s support team but did not receive a response.
One email sent by Ola to AFF member Isochronous states “Payment for a booking with Ola Australia failed to process. As a result, your account is currently showing an outstanding balance due to Ola Australia Pty Ltd”. The email then threatens to refer the matter for debt recovery if payment is not made within 7 days.
Two weeks later, this customer received a strongly-worded email from a debt collection agency. “Failure to make full payment or come to an alternative arrangement may result in the matter being immediately referred to our lawyers EC Legal at an additional cost. This could include court filing fees, process serving charges and solicitors costs,” the email said.
Isochronous had replied to Ola’s initial email to advise that they would not pay the full amount owing because the debt collection agency was unfairly adding a 2% credit card surcharge – which would not have applied to payments made via the Ola App if the App had been working correctly in the first place. This member also said that the only reason they used Ola was to take advantage of an Amex cashback offer at the end of last year. If the payment had been processed to their Amex card correctly, they would have also received $10 off the ride. This discount was not taken into account by the debt collector. Isochronous has not received a response from Ola, nor the debt collection agency.
It seems that Australian Frequent Flyer members weren’t the only people caught out by problems with the Ola App. Numerous ProductReview.com.au reviews for Ola Cabs similarly complain that the company sent debt collectors after them. Some recent Ola reviewers even claim that they’ve just been contacted by debt collectors for rides taken as far back as 2018. Many more reviews complain of overcharging or a lack of follow-up service from Ola.
As it happens, 86% of Ola reviews on that website give just 1 star out of 5. Although, in fairness, 75% of Uber reviews on ProductReview.com.au are also for 1 star. Another rival ride-share service in Australia, DiDi, received an equally terrible 88% share of 1-star reviews.
With several competing ride-sharing services available in Australia (not to mention, taxis), it hardly seems like a good idea to treat customers like this. Numerous AFF members have said they will no longer use Ola, which has been a Velocity Frequent Flyer partner since launching in Australia in 2019.
Ola Cabs did not respond to a request from Australian Frequent Flyer for comment prior to publication. (They did respond later – you can read their response here.)
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Ola – app payment problems in December (debt collector involved)