The app-based ride-hailing services Uber and Cabify are to suspend their operations in Barcelona from Friday after the Catalan government announced new rules requiring vehicles to be booked with at least 15 minutes’ notice.
The regulations were put in place following pressure from taxi drivers, who have been striking to demand greater controls to govern so-called VTCs (private vehicles with driver).
“The new restrictions approved by the Catalan government leave us with no choice but to suspend UberX while we assess our future in Barcelona,” an Uber spokesman told Reuters on Thursday. “We are committed to being a long-term partner to Spanish cities and hope to work with the Catalan government and the city council on fair regulation for all.”
Shortly afterwards, Uber’s Spanish rival, Cabify, announced it was following suit and accused the regional government of “caving into the pressure and demands of the taxi industry [and] seriously damaging the interests of citizens”.
Cabify, which claims to have 1 million users in Barcelona, said 98.5% of its cars were booked with less than 15 minutes’ notice.
“After studying the [new rules], which are now official, the company has reached the conclusion that the sole objective of the new regulation – and its eventual effect – is the direct expulsion of the Cabify app and its partner companies in Catalonia and Barcelona,” it said.
Unauto VTC, an association of transport companies in Spain, said the decision to adopt the new regulation could put 3,000 jobs at risk in Barcelona. Uber declined to say how many drivers work for it in Barcelona.
Unauto VTC has previously criticised the regional government in Catalonia for “yielding to the blackmail of the taxi drivers, who are again kidnapping the city of Barcelona and using violence to shield their monopoly”.
Taxi drivers in Madrid have been on strike for 12 days in an attempt to secure greater regulation of their disruptive rival.
Last week, they blocked access to a trade exhibition centre in Madrid where a major tourism fair was on. On Monday, police in the capital used cranes to clear the central Paseo de Castellana after taxi drivers used their vehicles to obstruct the busy main road.
Talks to resolve the standoff are continuing, but Madrid’s regional government has told the striking taxi drivers he will “not give into blackmail” and dismissed the Catalan government’s new measures as “heading back to the middle ages”.
The region’s conservative president, Ángel Garrido, said: “We’re not going to give in to blackmail – not on day one; not on day 10. If they’re trying to get rid of a sector, the answer is going to be no.”