Uber has opted for arbitration to solve a dispute it has with drivers in Kenya over the reduction of commuter fares.
The ride-hailing firm asked Kenya’s Supreme Court, in an application, to allow it to solve its issues with the drivers through channels agreed upon in contracts, while stating that it was “improper” for its partners to seek legal redress without going through the established dispute-resolution mechanisms.
This was in response to a case filed against Uber in 2016 by a group of drivers and a local taxi firm, after the ride-hailing company slashed fares by almost 50% to step up competition for Bolt, its main rival in Kenya. The drivers said the act threatened their earnings and breached the contract, while Uber argued that they reserved the right to revise their charges.
“The plaintiffs (drivers) have filed the instant suit in complete disregard of the said Arbitration Clause, and it is highly improper for the plaintiffs to have instituted the instant proceeding in contravention of the agreements. There being a dispute between the parties, the same ought to be referred to arbitration,” Uber’s lawyer said in the application to the court dated May 4.
Uber’s legal team made reference to the contract between the company and its drivers, which includes an arbitration clause that states, “Any dispute, conflict or controversy, howsoever arising out of or broadly in connection with or relating to this agreement, including those relating to its validity, its construction or its enforceability, shall be first mandatorily submitted to mediation proceedings under the ICC Mediation Rules.”
“If such dispute has not been settled within sixty days after request for mediation has been submitted under such ICC Mediation Rules, such dispute can be referred to and shall be exclusively and finally resolved by arbitration … The place of arbitration shall be Amsterdam, The Netherlands,” the clause reads in part.
Uber’s application follows a decision by the court last year confirming a relationship between Uber Kenya Ltd and Uber BV firms in The Netherlands, making them liable to their partners and paving way for a suit against the company. Uber Kenya had sought to distance itself from the parent company to abscond liability for their actions in Kenya.
“The aforementioned arbitration agreement is operative and capable of being performed. The 2nd defendant (Uber B.V) is ready and willing to have the dispute herein determined by way of arbitration. The parties are contractually bound to refer any disputes between them to arbitration in accordance with the agreement, while this honorable court is enjoined to hold parties to their bargain,” Uber said in the application.