The government of Thailand has moved to regulate online food delivery services after getting a barrage of complaints around poor service from customers during the country’s lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
It is no surprise that there was a huge surge in online food delivery orders during lockdown, as people could not step out of their houses. This is in line with the general trend seen all over the world, where online food delivery became extremely popular for people while lockdowns were in place in their countries. It is not just food delivery which has seen a rise in popularity, when talking about online services. Online forms of entertainment have also become extremely popular, as people looked for ways to pass the time while being at home. Streaming services such as Netflix have reported a rise in their user base since the start of this crisis, while game developers and providers have also seen a spike in the number of people playing games, and have actually been giving away games for free to encourage people, as well as try and put their wider game libraries back in the spotlight for people to actually buy games. There have also been quite a few discount sales taking place online, with some truly iconic games being sold with discounts as high as 80%. Another successful sector online has been gambling, with a number of casino online websites doing well due to the lockdown and thus the inability of people to go out and gamble physically, with casinos being some of the first establishments to be shut down around the world. Even with restrictions being lifted in some parts of the world, casinos are likely to remain shut for some time, and so it is likely that these online casinos will continue to do brisk business during this time.
Coming back to Thailand and their online food delivery services, the country’s Trade Competition Commission had warned that some online food delivery providers may have been increasing prices to take advantage of the increase in demand during lockdown, and that such platforms would be fined if this behaviour continued. Customer complaints have mainly been around this price rise, with some platforms doubling their online delivery fees to 40%, from the existing 20%. These price control measures came into force from 4th July, and will be in place for a year before being reviewed again. It was also revealed that these regulations apply to all online delivery service providers, not just for food, and so companies such as Grab and Kerry, which provide services where people can send items to each other or can request the platform to buy and deliver essential services and groceries to their homes, will also have to abide by these regulations.
It is encouraging to see that the country’s leadership has stepped in to ensure that ordinary citizens are not taken for a ride during the pandemic. While the demand for online services has grown by a huge amount, given the present scenario, that is not sufficient grounds for these platforms to then start increasing their service fees, and as we saw, in some cases doubling them. In fact, given the pandemic situation, many people are struggling financially due to loss of income, and so price rises such as these will only serve to make their situation worse. The present conditions are likely to stay for quite some time, and so are the increased levels of demand, thus allowing such companies and platforms to increase their revenue by serving more people, rather than by jacking up prices.