Uber’s business is going through a period of turmoil in the U.S. right now, but Grab — its main rival in Southeast Asia — is under pressure itself after a driver in Malaysia was arrested on suspicion of raping a passenger he drove home via the ride-hailing service.
Media in Malaysia, the country where Grab originated, report that police have reprimanded a 30-year-old man for six days after a woman reported that she was raped around 4am on Sunday near her house in Seri Kembangan, Selangor state. According to a police statement disseminated to press, the victim did not put up a fight because she was drunk. The driver was part of the GrabCar private car service, which is comparable to Uber X.
Grab confirmed it has removed the driver from its platform. It told TechCrunch that it is cooperating with police and that it will offer support to the alleged victim and her family. The firm added that it plans to introduce a panic button within its passenger app — the feature is currently limited to its driver app. (Grab’s full statement is included at the bottom of this story.)
Grab recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. Its service is present in seven countries across Southeast Asia, where it claims 45 million user downloads, 900,000 drivers and 2.5 million daily rides. It has raised close to $1.5 billion from investors including SoftBank and Tiger Global, according to data from Crunchbase. It is reported to be gearing up to raise another $1.5 billion.
Today’s incident recalls the tragic rape of an Uber passenger in New Delhi, India, in December 2014. Local authorities subsequently suspended the Uber service in the city for a period, while the U.S. firm instituted a series of features designed to increase passenger safety, including trip-tracking and an SOS button.
Today’s news is the second criminal incident against female passengers in Malaysia of late. Last month, an Uber passenger was robbed during a ride. She said suffered a miscarriage one week after the incident.
Here’s the statement from Sean Goh, country head of Grab Malaysia, in full:
We regret that there has been an incident reported on 11 June where a GrabCar driver had allegedly sexually assaulted a passenger. The news is deeply distressing and our priority now is to assist and provide support to the passenger and her family, as well as fully cooperate with the police and relevant authorities. The police investigation is ongoing, and we will not be able to share further details of this case. We have a zero tolerance policy to any crime and serious misconduct by drivers, and have immediately removed the driver from our platform, pending completion of police investigations.
The safety of both our passengers and drivers is, and always will be, a priority for Grab. I am truly sorry that we have let down our users and community in this instance, and humbly ask our passengers and drivers to please allow us to keep improving the safety and reliability of our service. We have in place rigorous face-to-face driver screening and criminal background checks – and we are committed to keep investing in driver screenings and training, and other safety initiatives. The Grab driver app currently has a PDRM ‘panic button’ for drivers to immediately contact the police in emergency cases. We will be expediting our plans to extend this feature to the Grab passenger app as well.