Under new legislation revealed Thursday, Colombia’s taxi companies would be free to offer so-called “luxury transport” services that look a lot like Uber and similar companies — at least on the surface.
But the pieces under the hood could hardly be more different.
The regulations, which were developed by the Ministry of Transportation to formalize a November decree, are complex and costly compared to Uber’s more laissez-faire approach.
Uber representatives were quick to applaud the new rules, but spokesmen also argued that they do not apply to the ride-share company.
“This is a first step for new forms of mobility that differ from traditional taxis in Colombia,” said an Uber spokesperson in a statement released Thursday. “Nevertheless, no new player may offer luxury service since all available positions are already monopolized .”
Taxi guild representatives also praised the regulations as a way to better formalize the services that can be offered legally in Colombia.
But it’s unlikely that legislation currently on the table will do much to resolve simmering conflict between traditional taxis and Uber drivers.
That tension has sometimes turned violent in recent months, most notably when an Uber vehicle carrying the daughter of a former vice president was allegedly attacked by angry taxi drivers.
The new law regulates vehicle characteristics, driver training and certain aspects of “technological platforms that support the provision of public automotive passenger transport.”
Those “technological platforms” must meet more than a dozen requirements including rating driver and passenger, estimating travel times and fees and providing electronic payment options.
In other words, luxury transport providers will be required to offer a service virtually indistinguishable from Uber.
But whereas would-be Uber drivers simply submit a few documents and undergo a background check, drivers interested in operating as luxury transport providers must complete a 10-step qualification process and pay roughly $1 million pesos in fees.
Luxury transport drivers must also complete more than 50 hours of courses in customer service and be certified to provide passenger transportation.
At least one major potential speed bump could hold up the new law’s implementation.
Earlier this week, President Juan Manuel Santos announced a new cabinet designed to implement post-conflict policies following an eventual peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group.
That includes a new Minister of Transportation.
Outgoing Minister Natalia Abello will be replaced by Jorge Rojas, an engineer, former mayor of Manizales who has also held different positions related to municipal planning in the capital of the Caldas department.
However, Vice President Germán Vargas Lleras said Thursday that “the work of Minister Abello will be continued.”