SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - About 120 Gojek private-hire drivers will be suspended from today for allegedly cheating the company by using modified versions of the Gojek mobile application.
Gojek said it was doing this following an expose by The New Paper in July last year.
TNP had reported that these drivers each paid about $300 for modified versions of ride-hailing apps to help them bypass verification, fake their location, cancel jobs without being penalised and, in some cases, view private customer information.
The latest move by Gojek is part of its ongoing efforts to clamp down on usage of modified versions of its mobile application.
Mr Lien Choong Luen, the general manager of Gojek Singapore, said such apps didn't work and compromised the safety of riders and drivers.
Last week, he told TNP: "Simply put, mod apps don't deliver on their claims.
"But what's most concerning is that they pose a serious security risk to users."
TNP understands that tests on these modified apps revealed that they do not deliver on their claims to increase the number of jobs drivers get, or prevent their acceptance rate from falling when they cancel bookings.
Instead, the apps make it appear as such on the drivers' phones, and have only a cosmetic effect.
This tricks drivers into thinking they have cheated the system while compromising security through the installation of malware and the disabling of security functions.
These modified apps appear to be peddled by syndicates in South-east Asia, which advertise them using fake videos appearing to show that they work.
Many drivers fall for the ruse, paying for the bootleg apps and spreading word of it through group chats for private-hire drivers.
The errant Gojek drivers who have been caught are expected to receive warnings and suspensions of at least one day.
TNP understands that the suspensions are not expected to affect services as the drivers make up less than 1 per cent of Gojek's pool of drivers.
Mr Lien warned: "We have and will continue to take swift action against users of mod apps. We urge our driver-partners to join us in upholding a safe and honest Gojek community."
The use of such bootleg apps is an offence under the Computer Misuse Act.
Anyone who modifies computer material without authorisation can be fined up to $10,000, or be jailed for up to three years, or both.
If the modification causes damage, such as a threat to public safety, the offender can be fined up to $50,000, or jailed for up to seven years, or both.
Criminal lawyer James Ow Yong of Kalco Law said that if the ride-hailing companies made police reports against the errant drivers, there could be mass prosecutions.
"There is nothing stopping the prosecution of these drivers, and the fact that this seems to be widespread doesn't make it less serious," he said.
"It would actually make it more possible as it affects the safety of others."
Gojek is working with the authorities on the matter.
The extent of how much data was compromised is not known, but Mr Ow Yong said the drivers could be prosecuted on an abetment charge.
He added that Gojek could even sue some drivers for deterrence.