What is ‘Ola Cabs’?
Ola Cabs is a multinational ride-sharing company. It was founded by Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati on 3rd December 2010. Bhavish graduated from IIT Bombay in computer science. He was once travelling from a rented car where he had a horrendous experience, as, amid the journey, the driver asked for re-negotiation of the fare. After being refused for the same, the driver abandoned him then and there, which intrigued Bhavish that people across the nation suffer from such experiences daily, and there was a need for such service/organisation that can vouch for the safety of the customer from the arbitrary behaviour of drivers. The name ‘Ola’ is derived from the Spanish word ‘Hola’, which translates to “Hello”.
The business model of Ola is simple. It serves as a middleman between the cab drivers and the customers. It allows customers to book cabs. None of the cabs are owned by Ola. Only drivers with valid permits that have been approved and validated by transportation authorities are eligible to join Ola; they may be self-employed or hired by a company that owns many cars. It offers a wide range of vehicles across bikes, auto-rickshaws, metered taxis, and cabs, enabling convenience and transparency for its customers.
Other than India, currently, Ola has expanded its international reach to United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. As per the data available in 2018, significant shareholders of Ola are Soft Bank Group and Tencent.
Since its inception, ‘Ola Cabs’ has acquired many startups like ‘FoodPanda’, ‘Ridlr’, ‘TaxiForSure’, and a few others.
What is the ‘Ola COVID Care Package’?
March 2021 marks one year since the lockdown was first implemented in India. Ola Cabs rolled out a plan named ‘Ola COVID Care Package’ under which the customers are given health insurance of Rs.25,000 per ride. The Ola COVID Care Package is offered by ANI Technologies Pvt Ltd (Group Activ Travel Insurance from Aditya Birla Health Insurance Company Ltd and Covid Helpline from Ohealer (Clinikk) Healthcare Services Pvt Ltd) at certain terms and conditions.
This insurance is included in Ola’s COVID Care Package, which provides for cab sanitisation, driver-partner temperature checks, medical consultation, and a COVID helpline where customers can access any COVID-related information. The duration of the insurance is 15 days from the date when the ride was taken. The package allows the customer to avail of 5 health insurance of Rs.25,000 simultaneously. The package also allows booking any ambulance for up to Rs.2,000.
To avail the Ola Covid Care Package, the customer has to pay a sum of 10 rupees, including an insurance premium of 2 rupees and 8 rupees for the care package.
What are the flaws/loopholes in ‘Ola Covid Care Package’?
The terms and conditions state that the package includes cab fumigation and sanitisation; however, only after deep research was it found that the cab fumigation is done only once in 48 hours, and the sanitisation is done after every ride.
(a) I am an Indian resident and citizen. – This rules out any foreign national and even a non-resident Indian to avail the package.
(b) I am not recommended quarantine at the time of enrolment in this policy. – As per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an American government research body, a person is advised to quarantine if he/she comes in ‘close contact’ with a person who has contracted COVID-19. Here, ‘close contact’ includes:-
(i) Staying in a 6-meter radius of that person for 15 mins or more.
(ii) He/She provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19.
(iii) He/She had direct physical contact with the person (hugged or kissed them)
(iv) He/She shared eating or drinking utensils
(v) They sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on that person.
In today’s time, a majority of people are contracting COVID because they do not know who has contracted the disease or not, so this can be a point of concern which can be raised while the customer wants to avail the package, that the customer was advised to quarantine and because he did not adhere to the quarantine he then might not be given the benefit to avail the package.
Also, the policy is silent on the aspect by which authority the quarantine should not be recommended because there are ‘n’ number of organisations/bodies recommending quarantine at various different conditions and even changing the preventive measures with respect to the day-to-day situation.
This makes this clause vague as it is unclear on the aspects and lacks the definition and identification of the body recommending the quarantine.
(c) I am not Immunocompromised. (Immunocompromised Persons include Persons who have undergone Hospitalisation, surgery or Day Care procedure(s) within 90 days immediately preceding the Certificate Period Start Date) – This includes people who have HIV, transplant recipients, ongoing cancer therapy; however, this clause include not only these people but also people who have undergone:-
(i) Any type of hospitalisation in the past 90 days.
(ii) Any kind of surgery in the past 90 days.
(iii) Any kind of Day-Care Procedures, i.e., surgeries or procedures that do not even require hospitalisation for even 24 hours. For example – Cataract operation (Eye), Removal of any foreign body (Eye, Ear, Nose), Ligament tear (Bones),
The inclusion of a significant chunk of people to not let them avail themselves the benefit of the insurance by making them fall under the category of immunocompromised people. However, immunocompromised people are those who are low on their immunity because of some other reason. But for a person who went to an ophthalmologist for removal of a foreign body entering his eye, and was freed from the problem in less than five minutes, then he is not actually immunocompromised but according to this policy as the simple act of doctor removing the foreign body from the eye of that person comes under as an act of ‘Day-Care Procedures’ that person will automatically fall under the ambit of Immunocompromised people as under this policy only. Thus this policy renders that person inefficient to avail benefit from the package.
(d) I am not living with or sharing the same address as that of person(s) who is Diagnosed with COVID-19 or Quarantined at the time of purchase of this policy – This clause renders a considerable number of people ineligible to avail the package, as the clause mentions ‘sharing the same address. For instance, in metro cities, a substantial number of the population lives in hostels and as paying guests, so even if anyone there has contracted COVID-19 or even quarantined, it leaves the customer ineligible availing the package as their address would be the same.
This clause is heavily debatable and might cause problems in having conclusive evidence with respect to the facts.
(e) I have not travelled to the travel-restricted countries specified by the Central Government or Union Health Ministry of India in 45 days immediately preceding the policy Start Date.
(f) I undertake that I am taking a 15-day trip. – This clause makes the user agree to the 15 days’ time duration from the date of the trip to the date of hospitalisation. The time span of 15 days is what makes this insurance package a futile one. As per the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, the incubation period (the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease) ranges from 2-14 days. Keeping in mind the context with respect to India, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the incubation period can range from 1-14 days.
This policy only allows the test from those labs to be valid and recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research. However, a few months before, there was a need for a prescription to get checked for COVID, because of which many cardiology and private labs have started checking COVID unofficially. But now, the ‘testing on demand’ feature has been rolled out. But still, people prefer to get themselves checked at the private labs rather than going to the government authorised labs to lessen the hassle. This, in turn, again renders them ineligible for availing the insurance as those labs and cardiology are not in accordance with ICMR.
ICMR has recommended two types of tests to be used for checking if a person has contracted COVID-19, which are:-
(i) RT-PCR or TrueNat or CBNAAT
(ii) Rapid Antigen Test (RAT)
The most common and the standard test being the RT-PCR Test, which usually takes 2-4 days to get the result.
There is a pretty evident situation in the nation where every state has a shortage of hospital beds/medical staff/oxygen cylinders. Due to the shortage of beds in hospitals, doctors are advising them to home quarantine themselves. Even the ICMR rolled out several notifications advising people to home quarantine themselves, as most of them cannot be admitted to a hospital due to a shortage of beds.
For instance, if we consider an average customer who took a ride with this package on 1st January and contracted COVID during the ride, on average, let us suppose it took him seven days to show symptoms of COVID. On 8th January, he got himself an RT-PCR test, which in turn took four days to deliver results, now; on 12th January, he knows that he has contracted covid, leaving him a span of 3 days to find a hospital bed which is highly unrealistic and unimaginable in today’s time. Thus even if the person is sufficing and taking care of all the clauses of the policy, it is improbable that he will be able to get any benefit out of it.
All the above arguments make it clear that to avail of the ‘Ola COVID Care Package’, the customer has to suffice a lot of unrealistic eligibility criteria, and even after that, it is highly unlikely that he will ever be able to extract any benefit out it, thus making the investment of Rs.8 for the package futile.
(a) Only symptomatic treatment during Covid-19 hospitalisation will be payable – As the novel coronavirus has been studied in detail by various organisations and authorities, it has been found that as the mutation has happened, a considerable number of people contracting COVID-19 are asymptomatic. Since last year the virus has mutated, and it has been accepted even by ICMR that people are asymptomatic even after contracting COVID-19 or showing any symptoms at a very later stage. Also, ICMR has issued a notice to ask the people having asymptomatic COVID-19 to be home quarantined.
Hence this clause rules out all the people who are have contracted the disease and are asymptomatic.
(b) Treatment for pre-existing diseases/ conditions will not be covered.
(c) Unauthorised Testing centre: Testing done at a Diagnostic centre other than the ones authorised by the Union Health Ministry of India. shall not be recognised under this policy. – This clause has been discussed prior in this article.
(a) In Policy benefits, it is mentioned that the customer is “covered for in-patient hospitalisation with day-care treatment up to Rs 25,000 for COVID19 or other illnesses”, however, Specific Exclusions clause (b) reads, – “Treatment for pre-existing diseases/ conditions will not be covered.”, thus contradicting itself in a way and also being silent on the aspect that what are the “other illnesses” which are covered under the insurance. The lack of such definition and its conditions makes this policy susceptible not to benefit either party.
(b) In Eligibility Criteria and customer declaration clause (b) does not clarify that by which authority should the quarantine be recommended, thus making it debatable and confusing.
(c) In Eligibility Criteria and customer declaration clause (c), it plays with the definition of Immunocompromised and includes people who are not immunocompromised in actuality; however, the policy includes them in that category without any just reason or explanation.
Taking the ride> Contracting COVID > Showing Symptoms > COVID Test at government authorised Center (only by the methods recommended by ICMR) > Getting the Positive Report > Finding a hospital bed > Admission in the hospital.
This whole process to be completed in just 15 days is a false hope which is being provided to the innocent customers who are daily being tricked into paying a nominal amount of Rs.8 thinking that they are getting insured and in case of a mishap, they are insured, however, in reality, it is nothing but a farce.
Eligibility Criteria and Customer Declaration points are so strict that only a handful of people will surpass it in today’s time, irrespective of the number of people who are opting for it without knowing their eligibility. Today, the layman is paying 8 rupees from his pocket, which is rendering him no benefit but is only taking from him in every ride booked by him. The exclusion list of the policy states that only symptomatic treatment will be payable; however, in the Second wave of Corona, which has hit India, most people are getting affected asymptomatically. The widely accepted fact that COVID-19 has not only been spreading without showing any symptoms, but the people contracting asymptomatic COVID-19 are also capable of transferring it to other people. Thus, removing a major chunk of people to gain anything in return for the 8 rupees they invested.
Due to the flooding of people in the government authorised covid test centres, people prefer to get themselves tested at private hospitals and cardiology, which render them inefficient for claiming the insurance package. It’s a small amount that is being looted by Ola customers on a daily basis, and this is how a multinational corporation is taking out money from the pockets of their customers by deceiving marketing tactics and foul play of words in their Terms and Conditions and thus rendering them inefficient to take any step.
The author has contributed this write-up during his research assistantship at M/s. Black Robes Legal. The views, thoughts, and opinions, as are so expressed, belong solely to the author, and not to any other person in any manner whatsoever.