The Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) on Monday said it will continue to press Grab Holdings Inc. to reimburse the remaining 25 to 30 percent of the P25.45 million refund to eligible passenger-victims of pricing violations by the firm.
Meanwhile, Senator Joseph Victor Estrada sought the passage of a law legitimizing motorcycle taxis as public utility vehicles (PUVs), citing the demand by commuters for a cheaper mode of transportation.
“There still remains about P5 million to P6 million that should be refunded to the passengers. We have been in constant communication with Grab about this,” said PCC chairman Michael Aguinaldo in a briefing.
He hinted that Grab remained obstinately stubborn and kept looking for ways to challenge the refund order, even claiming that many of the passengers involved did not have digital wallets.
The PCC also cited the difficulty of looking for the passengers entitled for the refund which might be as small as P20 per, such that the cost of tracing could be bigger than the actual amount to be given to a particular passenger.
Meantime, the PCC has yet to arrive at a decision on how to proceed with the refund.
The antitrust agency penalized Grab for a total of P63.7 million since 2018 for violations of its price and service quality commitments. It was in late 2019 when the Commission imposed on Grab the penalty to return portion of its commissions to Grab’s passengers for violating its price monitoring commitment.
The PCC has since ordered Grab to issue refunds in the amounts of P5.05 million in November 2019, P14.15 million in December 2019, and P6.25 million in October 2020.
Grab’s takeover of Uber in 2018 raised competition concerns and was subjected to a PCC decision committing the merged entity to a standard as if it had a rival.
Part of its voluntary commitments was ensuring it will not undertake unreasonably different pricing behaviors pre- and post-transaction.
During the monitoring period, the PCC found out that the ride-hailing company committed irregular pricing deviations, which resulted in the three sets of penalties. Following its acquisition of Uber, Grab’s commitments were first issued in 2018, subject to a one-year monitoring period. The commitments were updated and monitoring was extended until 2023 due to the remaining competition concerns. PCC underscores that the penalty shall be paid by Grab and shall not be passed on to its drivers or passengers.
The PCC recognized that Grab has virtual monopoly of the ride-hailing market, “unless somebody comes in to rival Grab.” For 2023, the Commission will focus on monitoring and determining anti-competitive practices in food, agriculture, health, e-commerce, energy, insurance and telecommunications.
As of February 2022, there were 16 ongoing cases filed before the PCC, five of which were ongoing, but have been publicly disclosed while the remaining nine cases have yet to be disclosed.
For cases under litigation, five were pending for decision. These are competition cases involving insurance, trade association, tourism, medical services and internet service providers.
“While there are agencies with anti-competition mandates like the NTC (National Telecommunications Commission) and the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), we will continue to monitor cases from our end. We will strive to resolve anti-competition cases in less than 2 years to avoid cases dragging on for years,” Aguinaldo said.
Ejercito noted that motorcycle taxis were allowed to operate only by virtue of a provisional authority to operate issued by the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
He said Senator Grace Poe, chairman ng public services committee, was also seeking to legalize this kind of operation. Aside from Ejercito and Poe, other senators who have filed motorcycle for hire bills are Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Imee Marcos, and Ramon Revilla, Jr.
Ejercito in July 2022 filed Senate Bill Number (SB) 167 or the Public Utility Motorcycles Act.
In a media interview, the senator related that motorcycle taxis are presently used for delivery, courier, and motorcycle taxi… because of technology. But there is still no law….they only have provisional authority to operate," he said.
Ejercito, a known motorcycle and bike enthusiast, said that in response to this, he and other senators have filed bills to legalize motorcycles for hire.
“We will see the competition… the motorcycle taxis and couriers, especially during the pandemic… also now during the heavy traffic gridlock," also said Ejercito.
The measure filed by Ejercito seeks to amend the 58-year old Republic Act No. 4136, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, to allow motorcycles to become PUVs that can legally ferry passengers from one point to another for a fee.
Safety, said the lawmaker, is one of the reasons a law should be passed, though he acknowledged in his interview that in companies like Grab and Lalamove, "sa tingin ko napansin ko yung mga drivers nila medyo trained ‘yan at talagang maayos sila mag-ride.”
In the explanatory note of SB 167, the legislator said that travel with the use of motorcycles has become popular because “it is the fastest way to reach your destination… Whether going to work early in the morning or rushing home to catch a scheduled family dinner, riding a motorcycle has been the go-to form of transportation.”
“Instead of banning the hiring of motorcycles as taxis, we push for its regulation. The safety of both passengers and drivers should be the paramount consideration in granting franchises or licenses to operate such motorcycle taxis. Safety shall always be valued more than convenience," said Ejercito.
“In allowing the existence of motorcycle taxis, we also do our part In helping our economy prosper. We create jobs by legally allowing our people to use their roadworthy motorcycles to be used for earning money. The passengers are now also given the choice to hire motorcycles to ride going to their place of work. Getting to work on time means more productivity for industries and more positive effect on our economy.”