Lawmaker wants to legalize Uber in Costa Rica after another legal blow to the company

September 30, 2015

After another government opinion came down against the ride-hailing service Uber at the end of last week, a lawmaker announced his intention to present a bill to “modernize” Costa Rica’s transportation law.

Ruling Citizen Action Party lawmaker Franklin Corella Vargas released a statement Tuesday calling for the reform after the Government Attorney’s Office issued an opinion that Uber’s service is illegal under the current law. Corella said that the bill would legally regulate “digital transportation platforms and other forms of collective movement.”

The opinion from the Government Attorney, dated Sept. 25, said that Uber is a public service — a designation that the company has disputed — and therefore requires permission from the Public Transportation Council to operate legally. The opinion said that Uber’s service is not protected under the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States because it is a public service, a category not covered by the free commerce clauses of DR-CAFTA. Drivers who offer transportation services in any form without permission “should be punished and fined,” according to the opinion written by Omar Rivera Mesén.

“The response demonstrates that our transportation legislation should be modernized to cover new service technologies and platforms in this area,” Corella said in a statement, adding that the bill should take into consideration the “new realities” that technology was creating.

Corella said he would set up a roundtable between taxi drivers, private transportation services, the Public Works and Transport Ministry and the Public Services Regulatory Authority to determine a regulatory framework for ride-hailing technology here.

The Tico Times contacted Uber for comment but did not receive a response by close of business Tuesday.

The Government Attorney’s Office opinion was the second to come down from the government against Uber. On Sept. 12, the Public Transport Council issued a similar legal opinion, saying that Uber’s operations were illegal. After two drivers were fined and their cars impounded by Transportation Police on Uber’s first day of service on Aug. 21, there haven’t been any further reports of official actions against drivers for the app-based service.

Despite the decisions against Uber, the company has continued to operate and recruit new drivers. The company announced Tuesday evening that the private automobile insurer Quálitas would start offering specialized policies for Uber drivers in Costa Rica.

Read the full opinion from the Government Attorney’s Office (in Spanish):

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