European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

Accueil > ReformsWatch > Spain > Spain: reform leads to decentralisation of private-hire l...


3 October 2018

Spain: reform leads to decentralisation of private-hire licenses

Established taxi associations in Spain have been protesting against online start-up private-hire transport companies which they say evade regulations and threaten their business. They argue that these companies are ordinary transportation companies and must comply with the same rules and regulations as regular taxis. New legislation that gives the private-hire drivers four years to comply with license regulations has been sharply criticised by the platforms.

Draft legislation that will cede control of private-hire licenses to the country’s regions, has led to protests by private-hire associations. Online transport firms Cabify and Uber offered free rides to stress their dissatisfaction with the planned reform. The new legislation transfers the powers to grant licenses to private-hire drivers (known as VTC) from Madrid to the regional governments, giving the latter the power to restrict the activity of such companies by, in effect, demanding that they apply for a second license, this time from local authorities. Other measures that are planned could establish an agreement between the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona and taxi associations to limit VTC licenses as a model to follow by all regions (one VTC license for every 30 taxi licenses). The legislator gives drivers of Uber and Cabify four years to comply with the new licensing regulations issued by the autonomous regions and cities.

In late 2017, all regular taxi associations organised a massive protest against an easing of the licencing. The arrival of Cabify and Uber has met stiff opposition from taxi associations. The regular taxi drivers label the activities of Uber and Cabify as ‘unfair competition’. The firms intrude in the sector, not paying taxes, and benefiting from the cheaper cost of a VTC license compared to that of a genuine taxi. In December 2017, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice ruled that an intermediation service such as Uber, the purpose of which is to connect, by means of a smartphone application and for remuneration, non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with persons who wish to make urban journeys, must be regarded as being inherently linked to a transport service and, accordingly, must be classified as ‘a service in the field of transport’.

Observers describe the disputes as a poorly resolved conflict – one that’s been addressed with notable indifference - even though they were forewarned – by taxi associations, the traditional mode of private transport, and chauffeured vehicles, which operate via digital platforms and are a direct competition to taxis.

All news