The National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has declined to renew the license of taxi-hailing company Bolt over alleged breaches, including illegal commission charges and booking fee, dealing the Estonian firm a blow as it lines up fresh investments to expand its reach in the local market.
Bolt had written to the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) seeking the renewal of its operating license, with days left to its expiry. But the regulator declined the request citing mounting complaints from drivers and their representatives about alleged non-compliance and violation of regulations.
NTSA deputy director and head of licensing Cosmas Ngeso wrote to Bolt country manager Linda Ndungu last week informing her of the development that will see the firm lose its transport network company operator license at the end of the month unless it addresses the breaches satisfactorily.
“Please note that the Authority is not able to proceed with renewal of your operator license until when the issues raised by drivers and their representatives are satisfactorily addressed and rectified,” said Mr Ngeso in the letter to Bolt on behalf of NTSA director-general George Njao.
“In light of these, we urgently request you to provide us with a concrete plan of action outlining steps your company intends to take to rectify this situation.” Bolt’s current licence was issued on October 28 last year and is set to expire in the next 17 days.
NTSA says Bolt has been accused of breaching the provisions of Transportation Network Companies (TNC), Owners, Drivers and Passengers Regulations, 2022, with the “most pressing concerns” relating to commission charges and an “illegal” booking fee.
The regulations bar taxi-hailing apps from deducting customers any other charge apart from the commission. But Ms Ndungu said Bolt was charging booking fee on customers as opposed to drivers.
Bolt is the largest ride-hailing service provider in terms of towns, with its services available in 16 towns, including Kakamega, Nakuru, Naivasha, Eldoret, Kitale, Nyeri, Meru, Embu, Nanyuki, Karatina, Kilifi and Malindi.
The firm operates ride-hailing and delivery services in six African countries— Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and Tunisia— with over 47 million customers and 900,000 drivers on the platform.
Its biggest rival Uber operates in Nairobi, Thika, Mombasa and Nakuru, and expanded to five other towns — Kisumu, Eldoret, Naivasha, Elementaita and Gilgil in June last year.
The regulator has ordered Bolt to provide a breakdown of the commission rates currently in effect, highlighting specific instances where rates have exceeded the allowed maximum of 18 percent.