Uber still operating despite court ban

Madrid Taxi Association vows to keep fighting to get car-sharing service off the streets

A Barcelona taxi association shows its own "census" of Uber drivers.
A Barcelona taxi association shows its own "census" of Uber drivers.JOAN SÁNCHEZ

On Christmas Eve, it took no more than 60 seconds for a car to show up on Madrid’s Paseo del Prado in response to a request using Uber’s car-sharing phone application.

This is despite the fact that on December 9, a Madrid court ordered the popular service to cease all operations in Spain.

The company is taking advantage of the delay involved in getting legal authorities to communicate with payment networks”

The cautionary measure was based on complaints by the taxi sector that Uber acts as an unlicensed livery service, and that its drivers have an unfair advantage as they operate with no permit or insurance.

The Madrid Taxi Association, which prompted the move, is now considering a fully fledged lawsuit against the US-based car-sharing service, which also operates in Barcelona.

“The company is taking advantage of the technical delay involved in getting legal authorities to communicate with cellphone operators and payment networks, who will have to block the service,” said José Andrés Diez, a lawyer for the Madrid Taxi Association. “Right now Uber is operating illegally in Spain.”

“This is not a problem with the viability of the collaborative economy; the point is that they’re violating a rule,” he added. “It may be that Spanish laws or those of other countries that also banned the service have room for improvement: well then, instead of ignoring them, Uber should fight to get them changed.”

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The lawyer went further. “If the cautionary measures had been established by a US federal judge, the service would have been suspended the very next day. But it seems that Google and other investors who fund Uber don’t place a lot of value on the decisions of a Spanish judge.”

Diez said that all steps will be taken to ensure that the court’s decision is respected by the American company, including calling on the National Police and Interpol for help.

This newspaper unsuccessfully tried to reach Uber for comment.

Spain is not the only country where the San Francisco-based firm has run into trouble. This week, South Korea accused founder Travis Kalanick of operating an illegal taxi service.

Uber is currently present in 52 countries and more than 250 cities.