Uber training seminar in la Sabana on Saturday. Photo Marcela Bertozzi, La Nacion
Uber driver training seminar. Photo Marcela Bertozzi, La Nacion

QCOSTARICA – “On what Don Otto Guevara (legislator for the Movimiento Libertario) says about using the (Uber) service, it must be made clear that if Transit authorities stop a vehicle in which he is travelling, the driver will be fined,” said President Luis Guillermo Solis on Friday, hours after Uber began operations in Costa Rica.

For the President, Uber is illegal, not having the met the state requirements to operate, the standards set for public transport.

The Guevara reference by Solis follows the legislator’s comments earlier that the Uber transport is not public, defending Uber in that it would take the form of “self-sufficient communities” (comunidades de autoabastecimiento).

The “self-sufficient communities” is used in the country for the management of water and electricity services outside the realm of the state agencies, AyA (water and sewers) and ICE (electricty).

“The Attorney General’s Office has issued several opinions in which makes it clear that there is a possibility that traditionally public services such as drinking water or electricity, can be generated or provided through self-sufficiency and self-management communities . Uber operates within an identical system. It is a community of members (users and drivers) designed to be self-sufficient or self-manage their specific mobility needs, ” said Rocio Paniagua spokesperson for Uber in Costa Rica.

Several specialists in private law and public contract explained to La Nacion that “communities of self-sufficiency” are not mentioned in any legislation, but would be a leveling of the figure used by some organizations to manage services like water and electricity, for example For Administrators Associations of Water and Sewage Systems (ASADAS) and electric cooperatives administration.

“We assume that Uber (…) will argue that their service be directed to a limited number of people (a gated community) who privately meet their mobility needs through a vehicle, it cannot be pigeonholed as a public service and therefore does not require a concession from the State to provide the service, ” said Carlos Ubico, of the law firm Arias and Muñoz, by e-mail.

“Our opinion is that the service provided Uber is a private service, with access to a limited number of people (those with cell phones, download an app; and people with credit card),” said the lawyer.

What of limousines? is a question that has come up during the Uber debate. La Nacion reporter Manuel Avendaño writes that he called on the ARESEP, the regulator of public services, for an explanation of why limousine services do not have authorization from the Public Transport Council – Consejo de Transporte Público (CTP) – nor an authorized rate.

At first, ARESEP spokesperson, Arlene Raventos, said limousines were considered a private service. Subsequently, Carolina Mora, another ARESEP spokesperson, said they (limousines) were actually a public transport and not regulated due to inaction by the CTP.

In the end, Mora said it is the CTP which must determine whether a transport service is considered public or private and the ARESEP would intervene if the service is considered public.

The Ley de Transito (Traffic Act) defines public passenger transport the carrying of passengers by buses, taxis or other authorized vehicles, “having a set rate or established price as determined by the legal system”.

Karen Ortiza, legal counsel for the MOPT, said limousine services are a “paid private transport”.

“Not all paid transport is public,” emphasized Ortiz. The public official said to understand if Uber is operating in the same way as a limousine, a study is needed. Ortiz added that currently she is unaware of any complaints about the operation of limousines.

But President Solis insists that traffic officials will sanction Uber drivers in the same way of any other who offers illegal transport.

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