In a move that has drawn criticism from the ride-hailing transport industry, the Spanish government has authorised regional authorities to impose restrictions on their operations.
This decision comes despite a recent ruling by the European Union's top court, which overturned local curbs in Barcelona.
Associations representing drivers working with app platforms such as Uber, Bolt, and Cabify have expressed their dissatisfaction with the government's decision and have vowed to challenge it in Brussels. They plan to ask the European Commission to open legal proceedings against Spain.
In a statement, Bolt expressed regret that the focus seemed to be on limiting business activity rather than ensuring customers' access to quality services. Bolt said: “We regret the aim is again to impose limits on business activity and not the users' right to get a quality service."
The ride-hailing industry believes that these new restrictions impede their ability to provide efficient transportation services to users.
Economy Minister Nadia Calvino informed the press that the Spanish cabinet had approved a decree permitting regional authorities to enforce additional regulation for drivers of private cars for hire in specific areas. The justification for the new criteria include factors like maintaining the sustainability of public interest services like traditional taxis.
However, associations representing drivers and fleet owners, namely Feneval and Unauto, argue that this decree contradicts the recent ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which invalidated restrictions put in place by Barcelona. The court ruled that these restrictions, aimed at reducing the number of private cars transporting passengers through mobile platforms, were discriminatory and violated EU laws.
Spain's transport ministry contends that the new regulation aligns with the court's ruling and emphasises that the protection of traditional taxis is necessary for the general public interest.
The clash between ride-hailing services and traditional taxi operators has been a long-standing issue worldwide. While ride-hailing platforms have disrupted the traditional taxi industry, customers have enjoyed heavily subsidised rides and greater convenience due to an over saturated market. The challenge lies in finding a balance between creating a level playing field for all and protecting the interests of all stakeholders, including customers, drivers, and traditional taxi operators.