Uber tries to survive in Brazil

A permanent ban appears likely; the company proposes contributions to the public transport network
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

The future of car sharing app Uber in Brazil faces real danger as lawmakers draw nearer to a permanent ban of the service in the country's largest metropolis.

Following months of wrangling between the start-up and the union representing taxi drivers in São Paulo, the City Council has already voted in favor of a Bill that will restrict the operation of services like Uber in the city.

Mayor Fernando Haddad now has to sanction or veto the Bill before the changes take effect. The Council has 10 days to forward the proposals to the Mayor, who then has two weeks to make a final decision. Haddad has already indicated that he is likely to approve the ban.

At the same time, a related proposal has been presented to the City Council to allow studies to be carried out by the Mayor's office to legalize new technologies that focus on public transport. The project also requires the creation of mechanisms to better evaluate the service provided by traditional taxis.

In Rio de Janeiro, where Uber also faces issues - to the point that it had moved offices to protect the integrity of its staff - the company is suggesting the introduction of a 1.5 percent levy charged on rides to drivers in order to finance the improvement of the public transport network, similarly to what it does in Mexico.

While it tried to bargain its permanence in Brazil, Uber disclosed that there are 500,000 users of the service across the four Brazilian capitals where it operates.

There are Bills against the app being voted in all these state capitals - and 13 other capitals where Uber doesn't operate yet have already presented similar projects that secure the exclusivity of public transport provision to the means authorized by the government.

While taxi drivers argue that there is no need to add more cars to the public transport system as the current fleet is sufficient to meet the needs to the population, Uber executives have been quoted as saying that legislators want to ban the service in favor of corporate interests.

The start-up has criticized the government's willingness to ban the app rather than debating it. It also maintains that the current regulations are focused on taxi services and that there is no regulation of individual transport services - and the absence of such regulations doesn't make Uber illegal.

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