After tweaking its app, Uber makes a surprise return to Colombia

Users now go into contracts in which they are not only paying for the drivers' service but also "renting" the cars

Photo: Shutterstock
  • A small adaptation in the app may let the company avoid the suspension order from Colombia’s Superintendency for Industry and Commerce;
  • Users were enthusiastic by the app’s comeback, but taxi drivers alleging unfair competition called for a strike on March 16 

Uber resumed operations in Colombia saying it had found “alternatives” to work legally in the country. The comeback was a surprise to many in the country, since the app had suspended its services there a mere three weeks earlier.

Uber said that from now on its app will allow users in Colombia enter contracts with drivers in which they are “renting” the vehicles along with the drivers’ services. The slight adaptation may avoid the effective enforcement of an “immediate” suspension order of Colombia’s Superintendency for Industry and Commerce, but doesn’t change the fact that no taxi app is legal in the country as Congress has yet to pass regulatory legislation.

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Several Colombian taxi associations announced they will go on strike on March 16. Taxi drivers, especially in the capital Bogota, say the ride-hailing app competes unfairly against them and evades taxes. According to Colombia Reports, though, users were enthusiastic about the company’s decision to return.

A spokeswoman for the company told the Associated Press the app is looking for ways to add taxi drivers to its Colombia platform. “We want to offer a diversity of services that will allow traditional, and new alternatives (for transport) to coexist,” read a statement from Uber.

Suspension order

In December, the superintendency had ordered Uber to shut down, following a lawsuit from a taxi company. The agency said Uber was providing transport in an “unregulated” fashion, and was diverting customers away from taxis that pay licensing fees.

Users now enter contracts and “rent” cars when using Uber in Colombia

Uber complied with the ruling but argued that it was discriminatory as it only told the company to cease operations, and did not address other apps that also operate in Colombia, including Cabify, Didi and Beat.

Welcome and unwelcome

Just as in other parts of the world, across Latin America Uber has faced different kinds of reception from authorities. While Mexico has regulated Uber and other apps, which now must pay state taxes, the Brazilian Supreme Court recently ruled its drivers are not employees but independent contractors who need not be paid social security.

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