Lawyers representing Grab Indonesia and Teknologi Pengangkutan Indonesia attend a tribunal at the offices of the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) in Jakarta on Tuesday. (B1 Photo/Herman)

Grab Urges Competition Regulator to Drop Unfair Business Practice Charges


OCTOBER 09, 2019

Jakarta. A lawyer representing ride-hailing company Grab Indonesia urged the country's competition regulator on Tuesday to drop charges of unfair business practices against his client.

The Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) accuses Grab of having provided drivers of car rental firm Teknologi Pengangkutan Indonesia (TPI) with special privileges after the two companies signed a cooperation agreement. 

The commission says Grab gave TPI drivers preferential treatment, including exclusive training and priority orders from customers, at the expense of other driver partners not included in the agreement. The KPPU alleges that an exclusive deal such as this is in violation of the 1999 Antitrust Law on discriminative policies and unfair competition.

However, during a tribunal at the offices of the KPPU in Jakarta on Tuesday, prominent lawyer Hotman Paris Hutapea insisted that Grab and TPI had not broken any laws.

"It's a pity that, just because one company has a deal with another, between one that owns cars and another with an application, it is considered a violation," Hotman told reporters shortly after the hearing.

The celebrity lawyer pointed out that rival Gojek was cooperating with a major taxi operator but that it was not facing any charges.

"Different companies like Gojek and Blue Bird also share an application. So what law have we broken?" he said.

KPPU investigators apparently based the charges on an earlier case, in which flag carrier Garuda Indonesia was found guilty of anti-competitive practices by making it mandatory for travel agencies to use the Abacus flight reservation system. This resulted in many being forced to replace their systems with Abacus.

But Hotman said the reference was completely irrelevant to the case involving Grab and TPI.

"We never forced people to change applications; for example, from Gojek to Grab," he said. "Moreover, TPI only has a 6 percent market share in Jakarta, and even less in other cities, so it doesn't disrupt anyone else's share, nor does it harm any other companies."

The KPPU must prove that the public interest and fair competition principles have been compromised, he added.

Hotman dismissed allegations that Grab had engaged in discriminatory policies by prioritizing TPI drivers, saying that all the company's partner drivers are treated in accordance with their individual performance.

"At Grab, when a driver has achieved a certain level, he belongs to the so-called Elite Plus, and for sure, he gets priority treatment. It is only discrimination when people with equal qualifications are treated differently," he explained.

"To join Elite Plus, a driver must complete more than 100 trips with good service ratings, and never cancel orders or deceive passengers. It applies not only to TPI drivers, but all other Grab partner drivers," he said.

The agreement between Grab and TPI was not meant to monopolize the business, as both companies kept their own shareholders and neither became a subsidiary of the other, he said.

During the hearing, Hotman also questioned the credibility of five witnesses presented by the commission.

The five are currently facing legal action for failure to return cars they had rented from TPI, he said.

"They have been reported to the police, who are investigating their cases. It's strange that the KPPU investigation team is presenting the five former TPI drivers as witnesses," Hotman said.

He added that non-TPI drivers objecting to the agreement between Grab and TPI could lodge a civil claim in court, which was beyond the KPPU's authority. 

The Jakarta Globe and Grab Indonesia are both affiliated with the Lippo Group.