TL;DR – Don’t know true or not, but sure is super drama mama!
With the exit of Uber, Grab is now the dominant player in the private vehicle hire market. But where there is money to be made, you can bet that there will be people wanting to muscle their way in.
So enter Ryde. Ryde started off just as a carpooling app. It has now moved into providing private-hire car services. Yes, like Grab.
Is Grab resorting to underhanded means to fend off new entrant?
That move directly poses a challenge to Grab. And I won’t be surprised if Grab will work vigorously to meet that challenge.
But will they do things that are… illegal?
Such as creating more than 300 fake accounts and over 2,000 “phantom” bookings on Ryde’s platform?
In a statement released on 28th June, Ryde said that it received a large amount of feedback from drivers through email and social media regarding fake rider accounts and “phantom” trip bookings on its private-hire car service RydeX app.
RydeX driver Tommy Lim, 35, said he was tricked seven times on Wednesday (Jun 27), arriving at locations only to find that the passengers were not there. Ryde claimed that the resulting loss of income to drivers amounted to more than S$50,000.
Ryde’s investigations revealed what it called “compelling digital evidence” that pointed to certain IP addresses. Ryde’s statements further said:
“Digital evidence indicate that a majority of these fake accounts and “phantom bookings” originated from locations in Midview City and The Herencia.”
The addresses just happen to be the addresses of Grab’s offices. And one of the IP addresses 188.8.131.52 is associated with GRABTAXI PTE LTD.
So… Could it be that Grab was creating fake accounts and bookings on Ryde waste its drivers time and drive drivers off Ryde? If that is the case, then it’s really quite a despicable move.
According to the TODAY article, Grab is investigating the matter.
Or Ryde trying to smear the name of Grab?
But that’s not the only theory that’s floating around.
The social media platform SMRT Feedback thinks that Ryde was playing the victim. It accused “Ryde of planting people at Grab premises, – maybe people posing to apply for new Grab drivers – connect to their WIFI, then returned the next day near the location to create the fake accounts gradually”.
SMRT Feedback also pointed out that Ryde allegedly pulled off a similar attack on Swiftback in 2016.
Wait. A bit of history. Swiftback was a carpooling app, like Ryde. In other words, Swiftback was a direct competitor of Ryde. Just slightly more than one year after starting its operations, it shut down in 2016 and migrated its base of drivers and riders to GrabHitch.
We couldn’t find any news about Swiftback complaining of being a victim of phantom users and fake bookings. No police reports were made then, so we can’t be sure what made SMRT Feedback say that Ryde allegedly pull off a similar attack on Swiftback in 2016.
What matters is that we get a good deal
So is this a case of an established market player sabotaging the operations of a new entrant? Or is this a case of Ryde getting a taste of its own medicine? We don’t know. And we hope the players play in the market play a competitive but fair game.
And as consumers, what we really care about is that there will be some decent competition in the private-hire/carpooling market so that drivers and passengers get good deals. Earlier with the entry of Grab and Uber, we saw how it shook up the traditional taxi market. The competition’s done the market some good and resulted in a cab sector turnaround.
With Uber gone, many of us have noticed that Grab has not been offering as many promo codes as before. Its strategy now is of a new direction, by offering a loyalty programme, GrabRewards, instead of direct discounts on fares.
But hey Grab, we want the promo codes back!