UBER AND COMPETITION IN SPAIN

"Fundamentally, we're trying to use technology to get people a better ride". Niall Wass, Vice President of Uber, pronounced these words last month in the European Ecommerce Conference in Bilbao, Spain.

According to their own description of the service, Uber consists of a technology platform that enables users of its mobile applications or websites to arrange and schedule transportation and/or logistics services with third party providers of such services, for personal use.

Mr. Wass said consumers have already embraced the technology, and it is now up to regulators to adapt regulation to allow them to flourish. However, he didn´t detail what sort of regulations they thought reasonable. "Where we will obviously need to mature, is hopefully the policy makers and regulators look at us and also agree this is a good thing".

In Europe, the walk for such an apparently simple and good idea, now operating in more than 200 cities, in 50 countries, has not been easy. After bans and fines in Germany, Belgium and Spain and taxi drivers’ massive protests in London and Madrid, the company believes that the problem is in the legislation. They say it is technologically anachronistic, enacted before the consolidation of the use of smart phones. Also, the power of European trade unions, very active and strong, is an obstacle for new competitors entering crowded markets such as the taxi business.

Precisely, one of the main arguments of these trade unions is that the lack of licenses and insurance of Uber’s drivers constitutes a violation of the countries' competition law. They say that not being regulated is an unfair advantage for Uber drivers. Besides, the development of a parallel market in taxi business makes the social security system inoperative for them. And the pensions, medical leave and paid holidays inexistent for the ones taking this insecure opportunity of earning money.

Uber has also been accused of unfair commercial practices such as planning on investigating critic journalists and airing their dirty linen or boycotting similar applications such as Lyft by asking for their services and cancelling right away thousands of times, therefore destroying the competition.

In Madrid, in its first 200 days of existence, the use of this application has grown 2.7 times faster than in London and Paris because in Spain there is a huge demand of drivers and customers. Wass stated that "We are creating fifty thousand jobs worldwide every month, and I don´t see why we shouldn´t create jobs in Spain”. He admitted to be "working under the legislation that allows to share cars. There are different ways of interpreting the law”.

What is clear is that countries’ legislation needs to be adapted to this new conception of business for the convenience and the protection of drivers and consumers, as Neelie Kroes, former European Commissioner for Digital Agenda stated last September.

References:

Rick Noack writes about foreign affairs. He is an Arthur F. Burns Fellow at The Washington Post. Why Germany (and Europe) fears Uber

Uber Open to 'Debate' With European Regulators over Ride-Sharing Rules. By Frances Robinson

Uber crece más rápido en España que en el resto de Europa. El País Journal

Uber pretendía espiar a periodistas críticos con su servicio. El País Journal