Grab has clarified that it does not price discriminate between non-subscribers and subscribers to its GrabUnlimited plan.
The clarification was issued following an allegation on LinkedIn by a Grab user, Louie Lui, who said he was charged a higher delivery fee of S$7, despite being a subscriber to the GrabUnlimited plan.
Lui claimed his wife, a non-subscriber, was charged only S$3.50 for delivery.
He added that this was despite ordering from LeNu Chef Wai's Noodle Bar at Bedok Mall at the same time at 8.53pm as his wife.
Lui added that the prices still remained the same, even after he refreshed the Grab app on his own phone and that of his wife's.
He said, "It wasn't a surge pricing, it was a price catered to me, the subscriber with a S$4 voucher."
He subsequently ordered the food with the higher delivery fee shown on his app on the grounds of keeping his wife happy.
GrabUnlimited is a monthly plan on the app that provides vouchers for subscribers, such as S$4 off delivery fee for orders with a minimum of S$15 spent or 20 per cent off on self pick-up orders.
In addition, for a subscriber to utilise the S$4 delivery voucher, they are required to pay via GrabPay.
Grab: Orders placed two different timings 3 minutes apart
In response to Mothership's queries, a spokesperson for Grab said the firm has adopted a "dynamic pricing model", which monitors market conditions, such as the volume of food delivery orders and the number of available delivery-partners at a specific location in real time.
The spokesperson added that if there are more orders than the number of delivery-partners available in an area, the delivery fee will "surge" to ensure a balance between demand and supply.
In the case of Lui and his wife, they had initially put in the same order from two different Grab accounts at two different timings, resulting in two different delivery fees generated for each of them, the spokesperson pointed out.
A response by Grab sent to Lui noted that the first pair of orders were executed by two different consumers at 8.48pm and 8.51pm.
The response said: "The market conditions at 8.48pm and 8.51pm were different then - which resulted in two different delivery fees given."
In addition, the different delivery fees were then cached in their respective accounts, resulting in the same fees shown when Lui refreshed both apps to check the delivery fee a second time, the spokesperson pointed out.
In their response to Lui, they explained the rationale for caching the delivery fees as such:
"We understand that you have also tried refreshing both apps to check the delivery fees for a second time. The fees and price difference had remained the same because the delivery fees that were given to you and the other consumer in the first round of checks were cached in our system to stay the same for both of you.
We do this to provide a good experience to our consumers who may take a while to decide their final order details and would prefer to see the same delivery fee when they check their order out."
The spokesperson added:
"We would like to assure consumers that Grab does not price discriminate between GrabUnlimited subscribers and non-subscribers. The different features and mechanisms, such as the cached delivery fee, we have put in place aim to provide a good experience for all our users. We appreciate users’ feedback and will continue to look for more ways to improve their experience."
Experiment showed no price discrimination
When Mothership experimented with placing two orders for the same items at the same time at 5.32pm on Sep. 7, it was discovered that the price difference was 20 cents cheaper for subscribers.
The subscriber was shown a price of S$27.10, while the non-subscriber was given a price of S$27.30.
The prices reflected in the subscribers' orders are before the S$4 voucher.
When Mothership placed the same order again later at 5.45pm, using a different subscriber account and the same non-subscriber account, the subscriber account was given a price of S$27.30, while the non-subscriber was given a price of S$27.10.
Overall, the price difference compared to the first round of orders was only 20 cents.
Lui added in a comment to his original post that he considered the case closed, following Grab's response.
Images via Louie Lui LinkedIn