The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has refused to renew Bolt’s operating license citing alleged breaches that include illegal commission charges and booking fees. This decision deals a significant blow to the Estonian-based firm, which had been gearing up for fresh investments to expand its services in the local market.
Bolt, which had applied for a license renewal just days before its current one was set to expire, received a letter from NTSA deputy director Cosmas Ngeso outlining the regulator’s concerns. The NTSA claims that Bolt has violated regulations by imposing charges beyond the allowed 18 percent commission and implementing an unauthorized booking fee. According to the Transportation Network Companies (TNC) Regulations of 2022, ride-hailing apps are prohibited from imposing additional fees on customers, apart from the agreed-upon commission.
Bolt’s country manager, Linda Ndungu, told the Business Daily that the booking fee was levied on passengers to cover support services and technological enhancements for a more efficient platform. However, NTSA remains firm in its stance, demanding that Bolt rectify the issues raised by drivers and their representatives to qualify for license renewal.
Not a Good Response
Bolt has also sent an official statement that did not explicitly address the main reasons put forward by the NTSA. This is what the company said, “In response to the ongoing conversations on our licence renewal, Bolt would like to reaffirm our commitment to the Kenyan market. Adherence to Kenyan regulations remains a top priority as it is foundational to building a long-term sustainable business that positively contributes to all stakeholders in the ecosystem. We remain open to collaborative dialogue with our regulator, driver partners and the wider public to continually ensure full compliance with regulation and expand income generation within our platform.” This statement does not say much at this point.
This puts Bolt in a race against time, requiring urgent compliance with NTSA’s orders if the company intends to continue its operations beyond the current license’s expiration on October 28, 2023. Failure to do so could have significant consequences for Bolt, impacting its extensive network spanning 16 towns in Kenya.
Bolt’s situation raises critical questions about the regulatory landscape for ride-hailing companies in Kenya. The incident highlights the challenges faced by these platforms in balancing competitive pricing for customers while ensuring fair compensation for drivers.