Regulation of Uber in Spain

During our last class, we talked about the potentially detrimental impact that Uber, along with several other giants enforcing the growing “sharing economy”, may have on existing industries and communities. As a result, people often protest the company’s presence in their regions, and call for regulations to be put in place by government in order to control for such detrimental consequences such as increased traffic or unfair competition. This conflict can be seen in all corners of the world, from New York’s recent limit on TLC licenses, to the ban, and recent return, of Uber in Spain – both conflicts that personally affected me.

As I mentioned in class, when I visited Spain this last July, I noticed a very different and odd relationship between locals and Uber. For instance, upon landing in the Barcelona International airport, I asked a taxi driver how much it would cost for a ride to Barceloneta, the beach region of the city which was about 30 minutes driving distance away from the airport. “60 euros” he responded. Naturally, I checked uber to compare and see if we could get a better deal. I was surprised and confused to see that Uber wouldn’t let me order a car, or even check the price of my ride, without entering my Passport number. I was initially resistant to the idea, seeing this requirement an invasion of my privacy. Eventually, however, we caved and saw that the price on Uber was almost half that of a traditional taxi. To make things weirder, when the Uber driver picked us up, he had a receipt-like paper that had my pick-up location, drop-off location, and my full name written down. I felt a little uncomfortable, and intended to do some research on the experience I just had, although eventually forgot about it as soon as our vacation had began.

Yesterday’s in-class discussion sparked my interest and I decided to investigate. Although I couldn’t find any information at all on why my passport number was required, and why the uber driver had all my information written down on a physical receipt in addition to having all this available on the Uber app. I did, however, learn that Uber was banned throughout Spain in 2014 because licensed taxi drivers held a 24-hour protest to shut down Uber’s UBERPOP service, which allowed for anyone (unlicensed drivers) to drive for Uber, very much like the UberX we have in the states (except for in New York, where Uber drivers must have TLC Licenses). Three years later, in 2017, Uber returned under the condition that they would only run the UberX service, which only allowed licensed taxi drivers to work for Uber.

uberpop.jpg

Backlash from citizens and consequent regulation from governments have become common for companies that disrupt the status-quo of traditional industries, such as the taxi industry in the case of Uber, or the hotel industry, or instance, in the case of Airbnb. As technology advances, trust among strangers grows, and societies adapt, it’s interesting to watch how far regulation can go to control for major changes.

6 thoughts on “Regulation of Uber in Spain

  1. Interesting article Rebecca! I was also confused when I had to provide my passport to every Airbnb I stayed at in Spain this summer, when I had never provided an ID in the states. I am curious to see if these regulatory measures Spain has in place will spread to the US, as more resistance comes from hotel and official home rental companies. For Uber, I see a stronger force coming on the rider side to keep the app unregulated, but I do not know where the greater force will come for Airbnb as it hasn’t gained quite the same popularity yet.

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  2. As an active Uber user, it can be extremely frustrating when you are trying to order an uber in an unknown place, and it’s unavailable. At the same time, I can see how taxi services are poorly affected by Uber implementation. However, Uber creates jobs for a multitude of people. I’m hoping that Uber and government regulators can come to an agreement because I believe Uber’s business model has the ability to drastically improve an economy, especially for smaller countries.

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  3. I love learning about the differences in how Uber operates from country to country. Regardless of how popular it is in the US, Uber has always had difficulty setting up in European countries, particularly those in which the taxi unions are a powerful force.
    Uber’s lack of presence in many of these countries has led to the rise of an app called MyTaxi in Germany, Ireland, and various other European countries. It’s very similar to Uber, except every ride you hail is a licensed taxi.

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  4. Yes, it’s interesting to see how Uber deals with regulation globally. When I was in Vancouver last year, it was a real annoyance not to have access to Uber, I’ve grown so accustomed to having it.

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  5. I actually visited Barcelona last spring, and read that Uber was banned there so I did not even try to open the app and enter my passport. A major alternative that they had in Barcelona, however, was the myTaxi app, as Aidan mentioned. Like he said, this app was essentially Uber, but you called a taxi instead. It was very simple to use and understand the app, especially after being so used to Uber. However, the price of these rides were much higher than the typical Uber prices that I have been used to.

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  6. Interesting how a seemingly small issue can have such ramifications for so many Tech Trekkers! It’s easy to take for granted the convenience and utility of Uber without considering the formidable regulatory hurdles that could have prevented its growth. I have never experienced Uber in a non-US market but I’ll keep an eye out next time I’m out of the country!

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