Uber Sues Ola Claiming Fake Bookings as India Fight Escalates

Taxi Drivers Protest Possible Uber Expansion In NYC
Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • Ola denies all allegations, including that it made up accounts
  • The battle for Indian passengers spills into the legal arena

Uber Technologies Inc. sued Ola, accusing its Indian rival of creating fake accounts and making false bookings to interfere with its business, as the battle between the two ride-sharing services moves from the streets into the legal arena.

The world’s most valuable startup filed a lawsuit in the High Court of Delhi this month for an injunction and damages, alleging Ola created more than 90,000 Uber accounts using fabricated phone numbers, through which it then made over 400,000 false bookings that were ultimately canceled to frustrate drivers.

Ola denied the accusations in a statement Wednesday, calling all charges “frivolous and false.” Uber also said in its petition filed March 14 -- which covered a six-month period from August to February -- that Ola employees were sending misleading messages to confuse its drivers. 

The lawsuit marks an escalation of the battle to capture customers in the world’s second-most populous nation, a duel that’s encompassed car rides but spilled into motorcycle taxis. Ola, backed by SoftBank Group Corp. and Tiger Global Management LLC, is defending its home turf against a U.S. company valued at over $60 billion in its last funding round.

Market Realities

“It is not beyond our imagination that this is an effort to divert attention from the current realities of the market where Uber has faced major setbacks including the recent incidents of Uber vehicles being seized by government authorities,” Ola said in its statement. Uber on Wednesday declined to comment beyond its court petition.

Uber itself has been accused of booking fake rides to interfere with its rivals’ businesses. San Francisco-based Lyft Inc. accused Uber in 2014 of ordering and canceling thousands of rides, a charge Uber denied at the time.

The U.S. startup is now pumping financial resources into Asia, with an eye toward expanding into not just India but also a Chinese market where it trails Didi Kuaidi. Ola, Didi, Lyft and Southeast Asia’s Grab have formed an alliance to try and ward off an Uber incursion.

A further hearing on Uber’s petition has been set for September 14.

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