EspañolRide-sharing app Uber will have to suspend operations in Brazil after a São Paulo court ruled on Wednesday that the company violates local transportation laws, following a claim brought by the local taxi drivers’ union.
The court ordered Uber to cease activities in Brazil immediately or face a daily fine of R$100,000 (US$34,000), adding up to a maximum of R$5 millon ($1,690,000). The state tribunal also ruled that the application — which allows users to order a premium taxi service via smartphone — should be removed from the online download lists of Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, and Google.
The legislation Uber is accused of infringing is Federal Law 12.468, which states that offering individual transportation is the prerogative of licensed taxi drivers.
An Uber press spokesperson in the South-American country said that the firm hadn’t received official notification of the court’s decision, and is yet make a statement concerning its next steps.
“We publicly reinforce our commitment to offering a safe and reliable alternative in urban mobility to the people of São Paulo,” Uber said in a emailed press statement.
The US-based company founded in 2009 has rapidly expanded into 59 countries. Uber has hitherto been operating in four of Brazil’s biggest cities: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, and Belo Horizonte, aided by not having to pay expensive licencing fees or comply with other regulations.
Uber’s website claims that its technology platform is “redefining transportation for millions across the world.” Nevertheless, the US$40 billion company has experienced legal difficulties elsewhere. In March, a German court banned Uber from using unlicensed drivers and established heavy fines for violations of local transport laws, and similar legal challenges have emerged in Spain.
During an interview with local newspaper G1 in September, Lane Kasselman, Uber’s head of communications for North America, said that the company wanted to update “the Brazilian regulatory framework” on transportation.
“For a long time, there was no need for the taxi industry to evolve. They’ve been the only option,” Kasselman said, complaining of transportation regulations that dated back to before the existence of the Iphone itself.
“Shouldn’t such laws be updated?” he asked. “There are days when you take the bus. Others, where you go by bicycle. Sometimes, use your own car. But there are days where you have to use Uber. So we’re giving Paulistas and Cariocas an option,” he argued, referring to residents of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro respectively.
He also claimed that the whole controversy surrounding the application was caused by “taxi company owners who are unwilling to compete.”
About 2,500 taxi drivers demonstrated yesterday against Uber driving service in São Paulo pic.twitter.com/3cWDYsMAjS
— Paula Schmitt (@schmittpaula) April 9, 2015
The ruling follows a massive demonstration by taxi drivers in major cities across Brazil earlier in April, protesting against what they claimed was illegal competition by Uber.
Drivers argued that Uber’s failure to pay taxes was damaging the traditional taxicab industry, and claimed that the smartphone-based service failed to provide a safe service for passengers.
Rio de Janiero Taxi Drivers’ Union President Robson de Jesus Zavier said that their objective was to secure a ban on Uber throughout the entire country.
In relation to the protests, the company defended in a statement the “right” of Brazilians to “move around their cities” as they chose, and said it would continue to offer the country a private transport alternative.
Edited by Laurie Blair.