‘Uber Off’ – Taxi Drivers Protest Uber’s Return to Barcelona

March 22, 2018 Updated: March 23, 2018

Spanish taxi drivers marched through streets of Barcelona on Wednesday, March 21, in protest against Uber’s plans to return to the Catalan capital.

Uber plans to relaunch its services in Barcelona three years after it was forced to shut down in the face of taxi driver protests.

According to Reuters, the California-based company will be making inroads again into the Barcelona transport market by introducing a fully licensed ride-hailing service, called UberX, that meets local transportation laws.

The new service will operate with hundreds of professional, licensed drivers in contrast to the UberPop service it ran until late 2014, using non-professional drivers to pick up and drop off passengers, Uber said on Tuesday, March 13.

Uber General Manager for Southwest Europe, Carles Lloret, said that the company wants to turn a new page and is looking to make a clean break with business practices that sparked regulatory battles, driver and consumer scandals and court cases.

“We made mistakes along the way,” Lloret said in a company blog post.

“We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of the cities in which we operate. Barcelona is no exception.”

Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in January he was focused on “responsible growth” as he seeks to put an end to the take-no-prisoners culture he inherited upon joining the pioneer of ride-hailing services last year.

Two years ago, Uber re-introduced UberX using professional drivers in Madrid. This after in December 2014, a judge ordered all Uber services to be shut down in Spain’s capital city.

But taxi drivers are pushing back against Uber’s intention to return. They see the company as unfair competition to their livelihoods, and have mounted a series of 24-hour strikes in Madrid, Barcelona, and other Spanish cities over the past year.

Watch the video to see scenes from the latest protest against Uber in Barcelona.

But Uber believes its services can co-exist in harmony with other modes of transport.

“We are fully committed to working with the entire sector – including taxis – to improve mobility in Barcelona together,” said Lloret.

San Francisco-based Uber pre-emptively closed its services in Barcelona in December 2014 as local officials geared up to pass legislation against the UberPop service, which city authorities legally barred the following year.

Protests by taxi associations over the past year against Uber have also targeted Madrid-based Cabify, a rival founded in 2012 that operates in Spain, Portugal, and Latin America.

Uber operates a range of ride-hailing services in more than 600 cities around the world.

Reuters and Ruptly contributed to this report.


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