Thursday 30 November 2023

CTP aims to sue and block Uber, InDriver and Didi in Costa Rica

Public Transport Council Board of Directors approved to request the Attorney General's Office to sue rideshare app companies; they will also ask Sutel to block applications

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QCOSTARICA – In its continuing effort, perhaps to appease the formal taxi operators, the government through the Consejo de Transporte Público (CTP) – Public Transport Council – decided this Friday to raise its voice against the ride-app private transport companies such as Uber, DiDi and InDriver.

Given that there is no political will, the Public Transport Council wants to once and for all shut down Uber and others with its latest move

With this objective in mind, the CTP Board of Directors it approved a request be made to the Attorney General’s Office, that, in its capacity as State attorney, file an ordinary formal complaint against those companies that operate in Costa Rica without legal regulation.

The intention of the CTP board,  attached to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT), – Ministry of Public Works and Transport, is “that the definitive closure of these operations in the country is resolved.”

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In the same way, the executives presented a request to the general regulator of public services, Roberto Jiménez, to request from the Superintendency of Telecommunications (Sutel), the immediate blocking of the digital platforms.

Since Uber began operations in Costa Rica in 2015, the State has not been able to resolve the legal vacuum for the operation of these and other firms that have joined in since then.

Manuel Vega, executive director of the CTP, compared the use of these transport platforms with “piratas” – illegal taxicabs, sometimes known as pirate taxis or gypsy cabs, and assured that, for that reason, the applications should be disconnected immediately.

“This is a totally illegal, irregular activity, which is not with the authorization of the Public Transport Council and therefore moving under these conditions, like the traditional piracy that we know, puts people’s health and lives at risk,” Vega stated.

Vega, like other government sources, denies that in Costa Rica at least, Uber and others are much safer and user friendly than many of the red (formal or legal) taxis.

Coincidentally, the actions of the CTP take place a few weeks after that same body announced the upcoming launch of its own mobile application, called Batsë, that will bring together 11,800 legal taxi drivers, who will be required to use the application, in order to control and level their service, compared to that provided by Uber, In Driver and Didi.

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The application would represent the beginning of a process of modernization of individual public transport based on technology, to help taxi drivers to boost their operation, affected since the arrival of Uber and others in the country.

In an interview with La Nación last December, the MOPT Minister, Rodolfo Méndez, assured that the operation of transport services through technological platforms has not been regulated because, in plain words, “there is no political will”.

Mata assured that since the Economic Affairs Commission of the Legislative Assembly discarded the original proposal of the bill presented by the MOPT, the issue remained in the hands of the legislators and “has been a difficult road”.

Amid the differences between some legislators and the MOPT, as well as its sub-entities and other government entities, the project has been stranded without a political agreement in sight.

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Currently, in a period of extraordinary sessions, where the Government controls part of the legislative agenda, the bill does not appear among the initiatives called for discussion.

Although the service is still unregulated, since December 18, users of Uber and other technology platforms must pay the Value Added Tax (VAT) -13% –  on each trip.

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