Neither the 4 years that Uber has been operating in Costa Rica, nor its more than 22,000 drivers, nor a clientele that is around 783,000 was enough for the government and legislators to issue a regulation on transport apps.
During the Solís Rivera administration (2014-2018), the Executive Power and Legislative Assembly engaged in moving responsibilities from one to another, without the issue being truly placed on the discussion table.
It wasn’t until the beginning of this year, in January, that the current government of Carlos Alvarado (2018-2022) presented a bill that was of little use: the legislators of the Economic Affairs Committee dismissed it for ‘insurmountable’ deficiencies.
The Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transportes (MOPT) – Ministry of Transport – thus chose to publish a new regulation proposal that is still under discussion.
This week, on Tuesday, a second player, DiDi, began operating. It is a company with similar characteristics to Uber and promises to stir – even more – the raging waters of that market.
What is the status of the latest regulation plans? Roberto Thompson, legislator for the Partido Liberacion Nacional (PLN), believes that in the best of scenarios a possible law could become a reality before the middle of 2020. Of course: in the best of scenarios.
“I am of the opinion that the project should not be filled with hearings. We already had enough hearings with the previous project that deals with the same topic (…) We have 3 or 4 hearings left to refer to the new text. The subcommission is given a maximum period of 60 days for a ruling. The expectation we have is that, in order to move forward with this process, the project must be convened by the Executive Power during (legislative) extraordinary sessions,” said Thompson, who is president of the Committee on Economic Affairs.
”It is a priority issue. With the report, we could issue an opinion immediately to go to the plenary. Everything will depend on the call of the Executive Power,” said the legislator.
According to Thompson, with the arrival of DiDi, it “clouds over” the bill even more.
“Taxi drivers remain dissatisfied and believe that the damage to them has already been done,” said Thompson.
“In this country, everyone has a car. What do they do to pay the credit card bills or the purchases of their financed vehicles? Go to ‘hack’. Meanwhile, the taxi driver has to be subject to the laws of this country and does not earn 5 colones. It is exasperating. There are taxi drivers who don’t earn enough to take home. Neither the government nor the legislators do anything,” said Gilbert Ureña, representative of the Foro Nacional de Taxistas, the national taxi forum.
According to the union leader, apps (such as Uber or DiDi) causes the “cake to become smaller and smaller, but to the detriment of formal taxi drivers.”
“We do not know why there is so much tolerance. Why do the government and the legislators allow transnationals to come here and take money to other countries? (…) There is a desperation among the taxi drivers to do something of that is going on in this country,” said Ureña.
“It was easy”
Felipe Contreras, director of communications for DiDi for the region, said that the decision to enter Costa Rica was easy. Why? The technology is well received by users and the existing legal framework allows it.
“When we made the decision to internationalize the company and looked towards Latin America, Costa Rica definitely appeared as one of the countries that we had to reach first to stabilize an operation across the continent (…) Beyond launching a business and generating revenues very fast, our intention is to deliver mobility options to all people. Not only those who live in big cities. That is why it is so important to deliver a broad service in the medium term to reach the whole country,” said Contreras.
DiDi operates in five provinces: Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, San José and Puntarenas.
“We come with better prices than the competition, with lower rates and launch promotions. Not only that. Not everything is about saving. It’s about saving safely. We are working for a secure platform that allows users to reach from point ‘A ’ to point‘ B ’ safely,” the spokesperson said.
DiDi says it already has more than 5,000 registered drivers.