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A ghost tale? Ride-hailing newbie Micab encounters problems in expanding in PH

Ride-hailing newcomer Micab is struggling to expand operations this year, saying its drivers have been hesitating to take ride requests due to over 29,000 phantom bookings it had alleged to Grab Philippines.

Micab CEO and cofounder Eddie Ybañez said the company had received enough commitments from taxi operators to scale their current pool of drivers to 15,000 in September from the current 6,500.

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The problem, however, is that its entry has been mired by so-called phantom bookings that began in June. Rides are booked, but later cancelled.

As a result, drivers became less willing to activate the Micab app because of the phantom bookings, which nearly doubled in two months’ time, from 15,000 in June to more than 29,000 this month, he said.

Micab, one of the few transport network company (TNC) entrants accredited in April, was part of the promise to keep the market competitive. It was supposed to give consumers a choice, after Grab became a monopoly through a regional takeover of rival Uber.

Micab first recognized these phantom bookings by looking into passenger accounts that have cancelled at least three times in short intervals.

But before the company could stop these phantom bookings, its drivers would have already wasted time and fuel, an unnecessary cost just when the prices of basic goods are increasing.

“They’ll switch on the meter only when the passenger finally gets in. So the risk actually is that the driver goes there and then there is no one there,” he said, noting there were no refunds in these cases.

Most of these bookings were then followed by a call recruiting the Micab driver to switch to Grab, he said. The person on the other line would even give a counteroffer.

These calls came from cellphone numbers that have “sequential” last digits, suggesting the accounts were bought in bulk, the official said. “Our conclusion is this is just one entity. It’s like a campaign,” he said.

To address the issue, Ybañez said the company had recently used an algorithm automatically banning phantom bookings after three cancellations done in short intervals.

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He said they were still monitoring the results. The problem, however, is that people behind this campaign can register new numbers.

Asked if Micab has already reached out to authorities, he said a legal team was still examining options.

If the issue is not resolved by the app’s algorithm, the best they could do is to “minimize” the number of incidents, he said. Nevertheless, the Cebu-based cofounder is only asking for fair play.

“We just want this to stop,” he said.

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TAGS: Eddie Ybañez, MiCab
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