Chile Economy slider — 14 April 2016

uber chile

by

Alana Gale

photo: TVN news showing Uber driver’s car damaged by taxi driver assault.

thumbnail photo: “Taxi Pasando” by Betoscopio

14 April 2016. Santiago, Chile. In response to the popularity of Uber, over 2,000 taxi drivers protested in Santiago last Friday, La Tercera reports. The Chilean taxi drivers are not the first to object to Uber: protests have taken place in cities around the world, including París, Sao Paulo, and London.

During the morning, groups of taxis met at O’Higgins Park to form a convoy. The protest was not announced publicly and did not have authorization from the regional government.

The protesters say that Uber and Cabify, a Chilean Uber copycat, are illegal. Andrés Torrejón, president of the Rental Vehicle Owners Association, says that they are fighting for the elimination of what they call these illegal cellphone apps and that the government has done nothing. He says this is hurting the taxi business.

Unlike Torrejón, Luis Reyes, the president of the National Confederation of Chile Taxis maintains that the confederation does not support the protest. He argues that some applications should be legal, like Safer Taxi and Easy Taxi, which ensure that the clients contact taxi companies directly, as opposed to private drivers. Those apps only work with licensed Chilean cab drivers, meaning those who have purchased a medallion, something that is handed out on a limited basis.

However, he does agree with the request for injunction against Uber and Cabify submitted to the Court of Appeals in Santiago on Friday by a group of taxi drivers. He sees those applications as illegal, because the users of the applications do not have permission to transport passengers.

Uber has not commented on the judicial action or the protest. Cabify has only agreed with the need for transportation vehicles to have biannual mechanical equipment checks, which is required of registered taxis.

uber chile

(In the TVN photo above a driver for a commercial transport company writes, “I am not Uber,” after taxi drivers threatened him.)

A spokesperson of the movement, Elvis Venegas, said that the dissatisfaction of the taxi drivers is understandable, because any person who wants to transport people can now do so through Uber or Cabify, without a professional license.

Oriana Fernández of La Tercera explains the difference between the license required for Uber drivers and the one that taxi drivers must have: Uber drivers need only a Class B license, which is a license for 4-wheeled private transportation of at most 9 people. Taxi drivers must have had their Class B license for two years and take a course.

La Tercera explains how the National Confederation of Chile Taxis is trying to formulate its own solution for the problem. The confederation wants to create an application that would serve as a competitor to Uber and Cabify.

Luis Reyes said that 43 different taxi syndicates will present their personal visions for the new system this week. He added that the idea is to utilize technology to better their service. 

Pedro Pablo Errázuriz, the former Minister of Transportation under Sebastián Piñera, also has an opinion on the situation. In a follow-up article for La Tercera, Carlos González Isla said the ex minister thinks that laws against applications like Uber and Cabify are not the way to resolve the controversy.

In Errázuriz’s opinion, the government should work to legalize this type of service. Additionally, he thinks that it should be adopted quickly by taxi services because of its efficiency.

As of April 6th, the current Minister of Transportation, Andrés Gómez-Lobo, had no intention of legalizing Uber and Cabify’s means of service, saying to El Mercurio that he had plans to take the “pirated transport” off the road. He said that the system of transportation was pirated because the drivers do not have professional licenses and the vehicles do not have the corresponding safety requirements. Thus, the vehicles, he said, are not qualified for public transportation.

But his stance changed slightly after the protest last Friday. According to La Tercera, he said that the taxi drivers should not have taken matters into their own hands and that he was against the protests. He went on to say that private transportation services like Uber and Cabify need to be registered with the government, have drivers with professional licenses, have the appropriate insurance, and have biannual vehicle inspections.  The minister also chastised the cab drivers saying they should adopt technology to improve their service and that he would increase policing of cabbies who have tampered with their meters and who are handing out counterfeit bills as change.  He also said he uses the Safer Taxi and Easy Taxi apps to call and pay taxis.

Replying to the Minister, Uber insisted that it was not a taxi company. Consequently, Uber wants a different form of regulation for their type of transportation service.

Then, La Tercera reported that on Tuesday, the Santiago Court of Appeals declared as inadmissible the appeal asking for Uber to be considered illegal.

Other countries have also been dealing recently with the question of Uber, details La Tercera. Mexico considers Uber a new category of transport but requires that the vehicles are registered with the Secretary of Mobility and that 1.5% of the price of each trip be given to a fund to help better taxi services. Brazil is currently taking action to enact strict rules that would make Uber drivers adhere to many guidelines of traditional taxi drivers. Similarly, Uruguay’s government is trying working on a project to regulate the usage of the application.  

Despite various opinions on what the solution may be, the legality of Uber and other private transportation applications in Chile remains to be decided by Congress.

Uber launched service in Argentina last week and cabbies protested on the first day. A court there wasted no time in ruling Uber illegal there.

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