Bolt Forced to Suspend Booking Fee Amid License Renewal Debacle

Bolt Kenya offices

Update: The article has been updated to clarify that the booking fee is charged to riders and not drivers

Bolt Kenya has announced its decision to suspend the booking fee imposed on riders for every trip taken. Previously, this fee constituted approximately 5% of each ride, in addition to the 18% charged to drivers for completed trips. Bolt has clarified that the booking fee was not charge to the drivers but rather to the riders. The company says this is for maintenance of the app. The 18% commission is charged to the drivers while the 5% is charged to riders. The booking fee isn’t just charged by Bolt, Uber charges the same too and their license hasn’t been renewed too. Uber hasn’t faced any public backlash on this for some reason.

Things were so bad that the NTSA rejected Bolt’s license renewal request. The agency stated that Bolt was charging more than the 18% stipulated by the law. Bolt downplayed this and even went ahead to say that it will increase investments in Kenya and in the region to the tune of Ksh 15 billion. Bolt said that they are in talks with the NTSA to clarify the 5% booking fee. The company said they have suspended it to deal with the license renewal process.

One week later, Bolt revealed that it will be raising its rates in Kenya to cushion its drivers from the rising fuel costs. All this is meant to have its partner drivers on its side. Clearly Bolt needs this given how tense that relationship has been. If you have ever taken a ride with Bolt, you may have interacted with some of the drivers who blatantly tell you that they prefer the other ride hailing apps over Bolt. 

Back to its pricing strategy, Bolt still claims that it operates under the law and does not overcharge riders. The company has also come out to say that its license is still valid quoting Section 32(4) of the NTSA Act which states, “If, on the date of the expiration of a license, proceedings are pending before the Authority on an application by the licensee for the grant of a new license, the existing license shall continue in force until the application is determined.”

Expects License to be Renewed

The company says that it expects the license renewal process to be completed today. A statement from the company said, “We anticipate its completion by Monday, October 30, 2023, as per the NTSA’s letter to Bolt. In response to concerns raised by the NTSA regarding the booking fee and commission, we have promptly taken action. Bolt has suspended the booking fee in strict compliance with the NTSA’s requirements, pending clarification from the NTSA about the interpretation of the regulation in question.”

Safety Of Riders

Bolt has also been facing a number of safety issues as riders using the app have experienced all manner of unprofessional drivers. Some drivers usually want riders to pay more than what is indicated in the app, others have been reported to be physically aggressive to riders and just recently one was seen exposing their private parts to riders. These are just some of the strange and unprofessional drivers you can expect with the app.

Bolt at this point should have strict onboarding procedures and have better avenues for riders to report any safety issues they have with their rides. 

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