Ride-share service Uber pledges to pay fines incurred by users in Spain

Announcement comes in week Spanish judge ordered US company to cease operations

Taxi app Uber is currently available in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.
Taxi app Uber is currently available in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.S. P. / REUTERS

US ride-share and taxi service Uber is preparing for tough times as it bids to get its business off the ground in Spain. The internet-based service stated on Wednesday that it would cover any fines its users incur when using the application in the country, after a Madrid judge this week ordered the company to cease all activity pending an unfair competition lawsuit being filed by an association of taxi drivers.

“We have received a message from the company in which it assured us that nothing has changed, that the judge has accepted a complaint that has no legal basis and they are offering us their help,” explained an Uber driver on Wednesday, who preferred to remain anonymous. This version has also been confirmed by the company, which stated it would continue to support its users, as it has always done.

To date, Uber has received 56 fines in Catalonia (28 to drivers and 28 directly to the company), of which it has appealed two, while in Madrid there are 25 cases open.

We have received a message from the company in which it assured us that nothing has changed”

José Andrés Díez, a lawyer for the Madrid Taxi Association, which has filed the lawsuit, announced on Wednesday that the organization had now paid the €10,000 guarantee requested by the judge for the cessation of activities to go into effect. In the meantime, Uber is still functioning in Spain and charging for its journeys without issue.

The judge’s writ also instructed telecommunications and electronic-payment firms to cease processing transactions for Uber in Spain, and to stop hosting its software and applications. Visa, which handles payments for Uber, has confirmed that it received a notification from the judge and that its legal department is studying the measures.

Alfonso de la Viuda, general director of the 4B payment network, also received the judge’s request, and explained that the company would take action when the legal documents arrived, although it did not yet know how. “We don’t have knowledge of the financial structure of Uber, but it is very likely that the bank they work with is not based in Spain, and as a result only part of its payments, or none at all, would be processed via our networks,” he explained.

It’s important not to completely prohibit new technologies just because they are new” European Commission spokesman Jakub Adamowicz

Meanwhile, the European Commission has warned the Spanish authorities that any measures imposed to regulate the workings of Uber must respect the principles of proportionality, non-discrimination and freedom of establishment. “It’s important not to completely prohibit new technologies just because they are new, although we are conscious that they must meet the regulations of member states,” announced the European Commission spokesman for Budget, Transport and Regional Policy, Jakub Adamowicz.

Uber puts passengers and drivers – who have no license or insurance for the activity – in touch, and keeps a percentage of the fare calculated by the online application.

Taxi drivers accuse the firm of intruding in the sector, and have filed complaints and held a number of demonstrations and strikes in recent months. The Catalan government is planning from next year to start immobilizing any vehicles operating as taxis on an irregular basis, and to levy fines of up to €6,000 on drivers, according to draft legislation.

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