Colombia and Uber begin regulation talks

Under major public pressure, Colombia’s government and Uber began negotiations on Monday over the taxi app’s future in the South American country.

Uber sued the state before an international arbitrational commission last week, triggering a six-month negotiation period to resolve the dispute about the app’s alleged unfair competition practices.

A day later, the US company’s Colombian branch increased pressure on the administration of President Ivan Duque by announcing it would end its services by the end of this month.

Uber to suspend services in Colombia on February 1

Bad start

Transport Minister Angela Maria Orozco told press on Monday that she would work together with congress to formulate legislation that would regulate ride-sharing apps like Uber.

Orozco added that she had already “been holding more than 750 working tables with all modes of transport, precisely to update the transport legislation” since taking office in August 2018.

Uber Colombia said the company was never invited to any working table and demanded a solution before the end of this month.

Now what?

Uber’s January 31 deadline makes the government’s plan to involve Congress impossible as lawmakers won’t return from their three-month Christmas recess until March 16.

Orozco said that “the government is not making laws for one company, but to have a safe and efficient transport service for the user.”

The minister added that legislation wasn’t optional, but “required by Colombian law because transport is considered an essential public service.”

Uber demanded “political will” to invoke executive powers “as regulatory decrees or executive decrees that would allow a temporary solution and give legal certainty to the platforms while the legislative process runs its course.”

Is a solution possible?

Of the multiple taxi apps on the Colombian market, Uber was the only one that was ordered to “immediately” suspend its services by a judge of the Superintendency of Industry and Trade (SIC).

The SIC judge, however, has no authority to enforce the suspension order, allowing the company to continue functioning unless a court confirms the order.

Uber Colombia said it would appeal the decision, but stands no chance in court unless there is a law in place that would allow its specific form of operation legal.

The US mother company subsequently sued Colombia before the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), claiming the suspension order violated the free trade agreement with the United States.

This suit triggered the negotiations but are also no guarantee for the company as the free trade deal between the two countries does not allow companies to break the law or violate existing regulation.

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