After court setback, Uber remains defiant

Uber has ignored a state deadline to register its business, and has vowed to stay in Mérida. Photo: file
Uber is defiant in Mérida. Photo: Sipse

Mérida, Yucatán — Uber is staying in Yucatán despite a setback at the High Court this week.

That’s the announcement made Thursday from the ride-sharing platform’s Mexico headquarters. 

The app-powered company has been at odds with the city’s taxi union since appearing in the city last year. Taxi drivers complain that Uber represents unfair competition, since drivers can turn their own cars into independent public limos while taxistas pay fees and follow regulations.

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Police in Mérida have reportedly seized around 550 Uber vehicles, which the state considers pirate cabs. 

Riders who prefer Uber say summoning cars is easier and they arrive more quickly. Cars tend to be cleaner and newer, and automatic payments mean no more fumbling for cash and hoping the driver can make change. Rides tend to be more economical than a taxi ride. 

Taxi loyalists say that cab drivers tend to know the roads better, and have noticed that fares have decreased in some cases. They complain that Uber drivers are often from other cities and get lost, even though a GPS should be guiding them.

Across the country, conflicts between taxi unions and Uber drivers, who are independent contractors, have been heated. In Mazatlan, drivers recently resorted to blows over a potential customer.

Uber has spread to 20 Mexican states, but only five states have successfully regulated the platform.

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The company condemned the ruling that upheld the state’s right to regulate ride-sharing platforms. The state’s transportation rules impacts the rights of passengers as well as drivers seeking work, Uber declared in a press release.

Uber found some bright spots, however. The Supreme Court agreed that Uber vehicles and cars under similar platforms should be treated and regulated differently than taxis as they are part of a new business model: the sharing economy.

The court also ruled that the transportation officials cannot say how payment transactions are made. The ruling attempted to force Uber to accept cash payments.

That will set the tone for future deliberations, Uber said.

“Although the resolution of the court did not reach the necessary vote to proceed with the general declaration of unconstitutionality of said law, it undoubtedly represents an important precedent, since the country’s highest court issued a criterion that will surely guide the future decisions of the Courts in actions in defense of the constitutional rights of users and driving partners,” reads an Uber communique, in Spanish.

But Uber denounced the court’s failure to declare the state law unconstitutional. The regulation will “continue to favor the minority and to protect transport monopolies instead of looking after the social interest,” said Uber.

“New business models require a legal framework that supports the general interest and allows access to technology to as many people as possible,” the statement continued. “It will again be the turn of the authorities of the state of Yucatán to open the discussion for an inclusive regulation, and the Yucatecans to demand their rights to improve their quality of life through the use of technology, either for transportation or for extra income.”

Uber shook up the taxi industry when it began service in Mérida on March 8, 2016, and has rolled out throughout Mexico since 2013.

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