A female passenger has accused ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing of ignoring sexual harassment committed by one of the company’s drivers. In a post on social platform WeChat, the passenger described her account of the incident and wrote a scathing criticism of Didi’s customer service. The post has since gone viral.

The accusations were published April 1st on a WeChat account called Mengposhuo (孟婆说, lit. Mengpo says) under the alias Mengpo. According to the description, the account is operated by a media writer. The author accused DiDi of ignoring the safety of female passengers and shirking responsibility. In her post, she wrote that DiDi’s customer service brushed her off when she tried to report the incident.

The incident happened on March 30th when the passenger was hailing a cab in Beijing’s Zhongguancun district. Mengpo describes a strange smell in the car that made her feel dizzy, unsettling remarks from the driver, and going in the wrong direction. Eventually, the taxi driver told her to get our of the car before arriving at her destination. The passenger reported the event to the police and DiDi’s customer service.

DiDi Chuxing has sent a response to TechNode saying that they are deeply sorry that the rider experienced this kind of distraught and helplessness when using their service. The company said that an internal investigation is still underway and that they are in ongoing conversation with the rider and the driver to verify the details. DiDi added that they take seriously the safety of drivers and riders and published the preliminary evidence from the ride record.

(1)    Route: we did not find the anomalies in the driver’s route or trip itinerary as claimed by the user.

(2)    Customer service response: the rider sent a complaint in-app close to 2400 PM; and our CS decided to hold the follow-up until early morning the next day. We contacted the rider at 10:34 AM in the morning but she didn’t pick up, so the CS rep sent a text message. CS successfully talked to her in the afternoon.

(3)    The rider claims to have smelt strange smell that ‘made one feel weak’, so did the driver. Law enforcement agencies have repeatedly told the public it is not possible for one party without protection (such as a driver at his or her wheel) to disperse narcotic fume in a car (not a hermetic space) without hurting him- or herself. The police has turned down the rider’s request to open a case.

(4)    We did not detect offensive / sneering words in the CS representatives’ conversation.  However, we do need to do an earnest review of the case and find out why we failed to achieve smooth and sensitive dialogue with a user in distraught. We believe we should have done more in communicating with the rider and assuaging her distraught better.

This is not the first time DiDi has been embroiled in a sexual harassment claim. Last year in May, a Chinese woman filmed a DiDi driver masturbating at the wheel. Back in 2016, DiDi added a number of safety features to its service including an SOS button which sends an alert to contacts that are set by the passenger.

This is a particularly sensitive time for DiDi since it is facing a new rival in the ride-hailing arena, food delivery, and O2O platform Meituan Dianping. DiDi is still the definite leader of the market in China with around 95% market share. Meituan recently entered the fray in Nanjing and Shanghai where Didi operates more than 1.5 million rides per day. Didi is also stepping in on Meituan’s turf by experimenting with food delivery.

Interestingly, DiDi has made its fame not just by beating Uber in China but by taking pride in its gender diversity and launching initiatives to promote women in the workforce. The company, headed by president Jean Liu, launched a mentoring program called DiDi Women’s Network in March last year.

Masha Borak is a technology reporter based in Beijing. Write to her at masha.borak [at] technode.com. Pitches with the word "disruptive" will be ignored. Read a good book - learn some more adjectives.

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