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.
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.