Grab postpones certain changes to rewards policy after customers express unhappiness

Grab customers discovered they were earning fewer points per dollar spent after the firm revised its rewards scheme. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Four days after announcing changes to its rewards scheme, sparking an online furore, ride-hailing firm Grab has postponed one of them, which makes members across all tiers of membership pay the same number of points for ride rewards.

On Friday (July 20), the firm also revised its GrabRewards policy on how points are earned across its three main services - rides, e-payments and food delivery. Customers discovered they were earning fewer points per dollar spent on transport, while points awarded for shopping using e-payment GrabPay increased.

While these changes will stand, Grab announced on Monday that members could claim ride rewards at the previous rates from 8am on Tuesday, until Sept 30.

On Monday, a Grab spokesman said the firm acknowledged that customers "would appreciate time to adjust to the changes".

"Customers who have purchased Grab ride rewards based on the new rates will have the difference in points refunded," added the spokesman.

The new rates for ride rewards will now kick in on Oct 1.

Customers said that how points are calculated matters because 2,200 points could translate to a $5 discount on rides. GrabRewards are tiered for different levels of membership with higher tiered members earning points at a faster rate.

Before the change on Friday, members earned eight points for every dollar spent on rides when they paid in cash, but after the change, it dropped to one point per dollar spent. Members using GrabPay for rides also saw their rewards dropping from 16 points per dollar spent to three points per dollar spent.

Mr Khairul Ansar, 33, a supply chain analyst, said when he realised he was getting fewer points, he decided to use the ComfortDelGro taxi-booking app.

"The fares are about the same, but I prefer to support ComfortDelGro now," he said.

Transport economist Walter Theseira said it is not unusual for customer rewards programmes to be devalued, pointing to the credit card and airline industries as examples. This is typically done to improve the bottom line of companies, he added.

The Singapore University of Social Sciences senior lecturer said unhappy commuters may not move immediately to either taxi booking services or one of the newer private-hire car services. Ease of use still matters, he said. "It may very well be the case that people complain, but they continue to use Grab," he said.

Separately, Grab is expected to submit a written representation on Thursday appealing against the Competition and Consumer Commission of Singapore's provisional decision which had proposed financial penalties, among other measures, after Grab's acquisition of Uber's business here.

The commission had described the deal as anti-competitive.

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