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Updated December 29th, 2023 at 11:02 IST

Self-driven car rentals marred by regulatory challenges, safety concerns

Platforms like Zoomcar and Revv became a rage with consumers before the Transport Department in Delhi had to step in and intervene. What went wrong?

Reported by: Gauri Joshi
Edited by: Abhishek Vasudev
Car
Car | Image:Pexels
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A weekend getaway is on the minds of many this new year. But the Delhi Transport Department's recent ruling on Zoomcar's operating license may play spoilsport over the self-driven car rental's regulatory violations.

These car rental platforms, listed by private individuals for hire have seen a steady growth over a period as demand for self-driven cars has increased tremendously.

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Why rented cars?

 

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Rented cars are an accessible option for millennials who do not have the resources to buy or maintain a car.

It also acts as an added income for hosts, as per blogs on self-driving car lending platform Revv, which was acquired by CarDekho in December.

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How it’s done
 

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Guests and hosts need to go through a thorough verification process through the app before they can lend or avail a rented car for the duration they specify.

As per the Zoomcar website, new users can browse through the listed options of privately owned cars. After finalising their pick, they need to upload their Driving License (DL) and also pay a small security fee. Those who avail a rented car (guests) are messaged the location 20 minutes before the pickup, and need to record the car specifics and upload pictures and videos on the app before the car unlocks through the app.

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Keys can be found inside, and often the owner may choose to not meet the guest, users share.

 

Getting in the car

 

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Users Republic Business spoke to experienced dangerous situations after they lent or borrowed cars from Zoomcar.

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Shivendra Singh, a communications professional in Gurugram, said he has used the app in Odisha, Delhi NCR, etc. Even after meticulously singling out cars for renting, he faced issues on the day of the pickup, like the location, condition of the car and repairs.

“This one time I booked a car, I had to pick it up from a secluded area. The car had several issues, ranging from dingy pickup at wee hours to muddy tyres, and the air conditioning not working. At that time neither Zoomcar nor the car host were of any use, and that is truly disappointing with the self-drive facility,” he said. 

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Mumbai-based Sanjay Lawrence was asked to pay up a huge sum despite his rented car breaking down in Pune.

“I collected the car directly from the host, who mentioned that he had repaired the clutch cable after a previous driver had abandoned the car when it gave away. The rest of the journey was me gingerly pressing on the clutch to change gears because of a loud grating noise, with the clutch ultimately breaking down in the middle of the Mumbai Lonavala highway.” he shared.

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When Sanjay called Zoomcar support to complain, they asked him not to engage with local mechanics at first, but he ended up spending Rs 3,000 from his pocket considering the car was blocking an entire lane of the highway.

“The car again broke down on the way back near Pune, with a local mechanic saying the entire clutch lining will need to be replaced. I had to leave the car behind because of a flight. Multiple calls to Zoomcar support and the host yielded no solution.”

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Zoomcar asked him to pay Rs 14,000 billing Sanjay for a couple of days after the car had been towed to the owner.

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Arjun Tyagi, another communications consultant in Delhi shared a risky experience he had with the app in Nainital, back in 2018. “Picking the car from a seemingly unsafe area, the car had issues with average, speed, regular functioning and smoothness that delayed our trip. To make things worse, my security deposit suffered when we returned the car due to internal damages that pre-existed in the car and flagged off earlier during the journey.”

Another user shared how he booked an automatic car but was served with a manual one. Zoomcar did not respond to him when he raised a complaint in the wee hours of pickup scheduled by the app, but refused to refund him the money after he was left with no choice but to take the manual model.

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Getting your car back

 

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Hosts, on the other hand, have taken to social media to share dangerous guest behaviour like leaving the car stranded after an accident despite the car being fully functional at the time of the booking. 

Some users also shared the cars being embroiled in smuggling, hinting at shoddy compliance and intervention.

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“A customer booked my car (mentioning car and booking details) from December 3 to December 15 but it has not been returned yet. I raised the tickets more than 15 times but no resolution has been given to me. I just received a mail that my car has been in a legal dispute and it is in up Khadda District police station (Uttar Pradesh) for liquor smuggling,” Delhi-based Sahil Kukreja wrote on LinkedIn.

Zoomcar support responded after hours, even days - with no proper resolution.

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The rides continue

 

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Such reviews discouraged Navya, but he was positively surprised thanks to a responsible host.

“The owner of the car was a warm person, and what’s more exciting was that the car was brand new and crystal clear inside out. During the journey, we had an issue with connecting the infotainment system, but it was resolved by the host,” he said.

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Shivendra had no choice, but to trust Zoomcar again for his upcoming road trip plans. Customers are still able to book a car from the platform despite cancellation of Zoomcar's operating license.

 

Challenges facing car-rental sector

 

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The cab-renting industry is likely to be affected by the operating license of Zoomcar India Private Limited getting cancelled on grounds of them violating the Rent a Cab Scheme of 1989, which mandates companies to maintain a minimum fleet of 50 cabs in compliant conditions.

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Zoomcar has been facilitating commercial transactions with private vehicles not owned by the company, thereby violating the Motor Vehicle (MV) Act and the Delhi Motor Vehicle Taxation Act, 1962 as well.

Seems the Oyo-like model these car aggregators have for vehicles has landed the company into a show cause notice, but the company remains silent to the authorities and media queries alike.

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Rouble Chhabra, a corporate lawyer specialising in white collar crimes said, “Cancelling the license of Zoomcar raises a concern for the whole industry dealing in contractual lending. The concern fall in the ambit of not just constitutionality ( freedom of choice), but also the gravity of the issue”.

Zoomcar and Revv did not immediately respond to Republic Business’ queries.

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Published December 29th, 2023 at 10:52 IST

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