Spanish Judge Bans Uber Taxi App

Uber
An illustration picture shows the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign in Frankfurt, September 15, 2014. Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

A Spanish judge has temporarily banned Uber across the country in response to a proposal from the Madrid Taxi Association that asked for precautionary measures be taken to ensure a fair market. The association alleges that Uber does not meet the requirements of operating a taxi in Spain.

Upholding the proposal, the judge cited a lack of licences and a competitive market for the ban. The judge ordered payment processing companies to stop transactions with the company and has banned any apps that offer Uber’s services.

Financial sanctions had formerly been placed on Uber in Barcelona and Madrid.  

Controversy over breaches in passenger safety and licensing laws have led to bans on the app in cities across the United States and Europe in recent months.

Shortly after, Thailand made the app an “illegal service” and ordered the company to stop operations, while the Netherlands banned the company on Monday following an industrial tribunal.

The bans follow an alleged sexual assault of a female passenger by an Uber driver in New Delhi last week, which inflamed concerns over the company’s service policies.  

In the Netherlands, the tribunal banned the app citing the company’s failure to abide by a law that requires drivers to have a special license as the reason for the ban. If caught violating the ruling, drivers risk being fined €10,000 per violation, €40,000 a year, and Uber itself could be hit with a fine of €100,000.

In response to the Dutch ruling, Uber said in a statement: “This is only the first step in a long-running legal battle. We will appeal.”

Asking the court to overrule the decision, Uber spokesperson Thomas van Oortmerssen said: “We believe we are offering a service within the spirit of the law. We will continue to offer safe, competitive, quality services to consumers.”

The Netherlands introduced UberPop, a European version of the app in July 2014, promising rides half the price of other taxi services. Just months later in October, UberPop drivers in Amsterdam were being arrested and fined €4,200 on the spot for offering rides after being deemed illegal for not holding relevant permits to offer paid car services.

Although UberPop is illegal in the Netherlands, the company’s high-end operations UberX and UberBlack are still in operation.

New Delhi banned Uber from the capital after a driver was alleged to have raped a female passenger. The 32-year-old driver Shiv Kumar Yadav was unlicensed and disabled his GPS.

Yadave was hired by Uber despite having facing sexual assault charges in 2011. His driver’s license was reportedly fake.

Police have threatened to charge the company for failing to run background checks on their drivers, however Uber has claimed that there are no rules requiring background checks for commercial drivers in India.

Prior to the ban, Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive officer said: “What happened over the weekend in New Delhi is horrific. We will do everything, I repeat, everything to help bring this perpetrator to justice.”

Legal action against the company in Germany, Italy, Las Vegas and Toronto, which sought an injunction against the company after an undercover investigation into the company found their service to be unsafe, citing “real and urgent” safety problems including issues with insurance coverage, driver screening and vehicle inspections.

Tracey Cook, Executive director of Toronto’s licensing and standards division said: “By its actions, it is the city’s opinion that Uber is jeopardizing public safety, including that of individuals they are recruiting as drivers.”

“They are continuing to operate in flagrant disregard of the laws of both the city and the province,” she said.

Portland, Oregon filed an injunction against the company on Monday for not complying with laws against operating unlicensed cabs in the city. The state of Nevada filed a state-wide ban in late November.

Indonesia and Vietnam are reported to be in deliberation over the app’s legal status.

Uber declined to pass further comment and directed Newsweek to their blog.