Jakarta. While ride-hailing services continue to grow in popularity and make a bigger contribution to the Indonesian economy, the question of customer safety is becoming more relevant than ever amid reports of drivers being involved in criminal activities.
Ride-hailing service Grab said safety is its number-one priority and that it applies strict policies to ensure drivers comply with the company's code of ethics.
"The safety and security of all drivers, passengers and the public are our highest priority … No violation of our code of ethics and no form of crime will be tolerated," Grab Indonesia managing director Ridzki Kramadibrata told the Jakarta Globe via email.
He added that Grab's driver partners are subject to sanctions if they violate the company's code of conduct. The severity of these sanctions is determined on a case-by-case basis and includes their accounts being frozen either temporarily or permanently.
The most recently reported incident involving a ride-hailing service occurred on March 18, when 29-year-old Yun Siska Rohani was found dead after she was allegedly murdered by her driver.
According to a report by BeritaSatu.com, Bogor Police in West Java identified the driver by the initials F.H. He was allegedly assisted by his twin brother, F.N.
Siska ordered a ride from the Casablanca area to Tebet in South Jakarta, but was instead taken to Bogor, about 50 kilometers away, via the Jagorawi Toll Road. She was allegedly robbed on the way and reportedly strangled when the perpetrators discovered that she had no money in her bank account. Her body was subsequently dumped in Cibinong, Bogor.
"There has been several safety issues and criminal incidents involving customers of online taxis … but a solution to handling such cases, and a safety guarantee for customers of online taxis are almost non-existent at this point," said Azas Tigor Nainggolan, a transportation policy analyst and chairman of the Jakarta Citizens Forum (Fakta), as quoted by Investor Daily.
Azas listed similar incidents that occurred over the past year, including the alleged rape of a female passenger in Makassar, South Sulawesi, in October, the alleged robbery of a female passenger in Bandung, West Java, in January and the alleged rape and murder in February of a female passenger, whose body was later dumped near Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Banten.
The Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) said there has been an increase in the number of complaints involving online transportation, which includes four-wheeled and two-wheeled vehicles, since 2016.
"Complaints against online transportation comprise 34 percent of the total number of complaints involving land transportation," Abdul Basith, who deals with complaints and legal matters at YLKI, told the Jakarta Globe.
While complaints vary, from untimely response to hacked accounts, the foundation noted that ride-hailing companies generally tend to shy away from accepting responsibility.
"These companies take very little responsibility and seem to leave such issues to driver partners and the police to resolve, with the excuse that they're merely platform providers," Abdul said.
Regulation to Guarantee Safety
In a statement issued in response to Siska's death, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi called on ride-hailing companies to evaluate and rectify their driver recruitment processes.
"The recruitment process must be more selective and the companies must conduct recruitment in person. In that way, they can figure out the person's background and character, so the companies can appoint better drivers who will perform their duties honorably," Budi said.
The Ministry of Transportation issued a regulation in October last year that includes online-based taxi drivers in the public transportation category and sets floor and ceiling rates for ride-hailing services. The regulation, which came into effect on Feb. 1, also requires ride-hailing drivers to undergo regular evaluations and to acquire public driving licenses, known as SIM A Umum.
"Safety is the main purpose, so this regulation must be implemented to prevent undesirable things from happening," Budi said, as quoted by state-run news agency Antara.
However, Azas said the regulation has yet to be fully implemented.
"All these crimes by drivers of ride-hailing services indicate that there are no minimum service standards for users, nor do the companies have good recruitment standards," he said.
However, Ridzki of Grab said his company maintains a "strict selection process in the recruitment of drivers" that involves checking their backgrounds and criminal records. He said the company will continue to invest in better selection and training processes.
"We have also invested in training and developing our driver partners, as well as other safety initiatives," he added.
Ridzki highlighted the "Share My Ride" safety feature available on the Grab smartphone application, which allows passengers to notify friends and relatives when they are on the way so their journeys can be monitored in real time. Customers can access this feature by selecting the option in the app when the journey begins.
The Jakarta Globe also reached out to ride-hailing service Go-Jek but did not receive an immediate response.
Minister Budi said during a recent press conference that the government has finalized a new regulation that will require ride-hailing companies to register as public transportation providers.
The government is expecting these companies to register within the next two months, as part of an effort to better supervise their services.
"Regarding the regulation, we will support the government and have been conducting several meetings and discussions with related authorities," Ridzki said.
Grab said the company has a vast number of people benefiting from its services, including partner drivers, restaurants and customers.
Budi also criticized the practice by drivers of ride-hailing services to operate under different accounts.
"The car and driver must be in accordance with what has been registered, and companies must enforce this rule. They are using advanced technology, so it is confusing to us that they are unable to guarantee their customers' safety. There is something wrong here," the minister said.
He called on the police to investigate the matter to see whether drivers use falsified documents to register.
Grab Indonesia's website states that "our driver partners can only use vehicles that match its vehicle license number and information with its online Grab application."
The company said it has urged all its driver partners to immediately renew or update their personal and vehicle information on the Grab app as part of the company's efforts to improve safety standards.
"We encourage passengers to cancel an order if the driver's information [license plate, photo ID, vehicle model] does not match the profile on the passengers' app," Grab said.
Tips on Staying Safe During Your Ride
As the convenience of ride-hailing services will continue to keep users hooked, customers can adopt a proactive approach alongside ongoing efforts to ensure safety during rides.
Here are some tips, some from the transportation minister himself, on how to stay safe when using online-based taxis:
1. Do not be afraid to refuse or cancel a ride if the car picking you up does not match the one registered in the app, or when the driver is a different person.
"This is your right as a customer; you can cancel the order if you feel unsafe or the car picking you up is not as expected," Budi said.
2. Observe your ride. This means taking into account your surroundings, noting from the very beginning if the situation seems suspicious or if there is already someone else in the car besides the driver.
3. Know your way. You are in a better position when you specify your intended route and make sure the driver follows your instructions as this will help you safely reach your destination. If you are unsure about the best way to go, pull up a navigation app on your smartphone to familiarize yourself.
"We must actively engage with the driver, so that we [as customers] are in control of the situation and not the other way around," Budi said.
4. Stay alert and awake. You are an easier target when you're distracted or asleep, so make sure that you're always vigilant whenever you are using public transportation.
5. Be prepared! Carrying pepper spray or other tools for self-defense in your bag may come in handy, should you find yourself in a precarious situation.
Don't forget to also keep emergency numbers in your contact list, so that you can alert the authorities if the situation calls for it.
6. Lastly, do not hesitate to share the details of your ride with your friends or relatives. This is even more important when you are using such services at odd hours, or when you are going to use an unfamiliar route. Always be one step ahead to stay safe!