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This is what Bolt says it does after a sexual assault case is opened

File picture: Reuters/Pavlo Gonchar / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

File picture: Reuters/Pavlo Gonchar / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

Published Mar 6, 2022

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Cape Town - Ride-hailing service Bolt has promised to take action and initiate criminal charges against people renting profiles or using other driver’s accounts to pick up passengers.

The company was also taken to task following allegations that one of its drivers raped and strangled a woman “half to death”.

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A Twitter user made the allegations public on February 25 on social media, sharing the driver’s name, licence plate number and vehicle model.

“A Bolt driver raped my friend last night, he strangled her half to death and took her virginity. Bolt doesn’t care about our safety, their instagram page is filled with people complaining about assault and they have done nothing about it,” @Luluthebearr wrote.

According to Gareth Taylor, Bolt regional manager for SADC, Bolt immediately blocks the driver’s account from the platform when a serious allegation such as sexual assault is made against a driver.

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“If there is an emergency on a trip and the passenger activates the SOS button in the Bolt app, a private security team will reach out to them within seconds to offer help,” Taylor told IOL.

“Where an incident of sexual assault occurs on our platform, we implore individuals to report such cases directly to us via the app. Where this process isn’t followed, we lose time having to verify the person’s identity (to comply with POPIA and GDPR) before our Safety Team can be activated to deal with the incident.

“When individuals raise an incident on social media, on behalf of a friend, it makes it extremely difficult for us to get the facts as soon as possible,” he said.

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Taylor encourages victim of a crime while using the platform to report the matter to the South African Police Service.

“After the passenger has opened a case, Bolt supports the investigating officer with any data possible, including all the driver, passenger, and trip details,” Taylor said, adding that as part of Bolt’s Trip Insurance, passengers have access to trauma counselling and a contribution to medical costs if they are involved in an incident while on a trip,“ he said.

When asked about the vetting process at Bolt, Taylor said the “unequivocal rule” is that drivers require a Professional Driving Permit (PrDP) issued by local authorities to be accepted onto the Bolt platform. Taylor said this permit is only granted to applicants who obtain a Police Clearance Certificate from the SAPS.

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“In addition to the Police Clearance obtained via the PrDP, Bolt performs an additional Criminal Background Check – as an extra layer of driver verification – through an independent provider, Managed Integrity Evaluation,” he said.

Managed Integrity Evaluation assists in verifying and checking an individual's criminal record by capturing digital fingerprints and checking their prints against the SAPS database.

To further ensure rider safety, riders are encouraged to check that the driver’s photo, driver name, vehicle make and model and vehicle registration matches what is displayed in the app.

If there are any discrepancies, the rider should not get into the vehicle and report it via the app.

"Upon the driver's arrival, passengers can ask the driver a variety of questions – that only the driver specified in the Bolt app would know the answers to – before they enter the car, providing an additional layer of safety for every trip,“ Taylor added.

He also encouraged riders to opt for a Bolt Women Only trip, to use the ‘Share my ETA’ function and use the SOS button in their app that alerts Namola to send a private emergency response if there is an incident.

“Bolt encourages passengers to ask the driver to lower their mask to be sure that the driver matches the in-app photograph, as long as both driver and passenger comply with current Covid-19 regulations and wear their masks during the trip. Passengers are also welcome to ask to check the boot, if they wish, and to take any other reasonable measures to reassure them of their safety,” said Taylor.

A passenger can also cancel a trip without any cost or penalty if they are concerned for their safety when the driver arrives to collect them.

When asked about further plans to increase safety and security at Bolt, Taylor said the company is working with National, Provincial, and Local Government to make e-hailing safer.

“In 2021, Bolt incorporated an Identity and Trust Product team into its product development team that is focused on identifying new product features and partnerships that can further enhance such safety.

“One such new partnership is our recent partnership with Trackbox in Kwazulu-Natal in order to provide enhanced victim support and additional support to activate emergency services. Our partnership will offer both victim support for our affected passengers and also will provide capacity and support to the law enforcement investigation. This includes supporting in taking the statement for the police, and offering necessary support and engagement with law enforcement,” he said.

IOL

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