The decision to force Uber out of Colombia is a huge mistake on so many levels. It will hurt users, mobility, drivers and their families for God’s sake. It will also detract investment in the nascent startup ecosystem, embolden interest groups to attack other innovators, and cost the nation over $20mm in uncollected taxes.
Additionally, this significantly hurts our mentality. As Colombians, we can all see the restlessness of our people, this gives everyone another reason to be upset and pessimistic about our prospects.
To what end? What is gained? How does this help anyone? I’m dumbfounded.
If you’re an insider, and if you exercise common sense, there is a clear winner from this decision. The taxi industry. In their mind, Uber should have never entered the market. A wrong has been finally made right.
*Before you read further please make no mistake, I benefit from this decision - at least in the short term - Since at the time our business @Truora works with every single competitor of Uber in Colombia.*
The only “solid” counter argument that can be made is that Uber didn’t “play by the rules” and they did.
If playing by the rules means lobbying so aggressively that the government can’t even signal a willingness to regulate without the risk of a national strike, intimidating/beating up Uber drivers and even burning their cars - then yes, they indeed play by the rules.
Let's explore this legality argument further. The reason I take issue with the legality argument, is that unless you actually lived in Colombia before Uber, this is what it actually looked like:
- You could get ripped off constantly.
- Risk being hurt by if you complained
- If there was rain, you’d accept you’re stranded or need wait hours to get a ride.
- Most importantly, you could actually get an express kidnapping.
(For those who don’t know. This is when you get into a cab, and soon a couple of guys get in, hold you against your will and drive you around the city for the day, emptying your accounts as you fear for your life)
In late 2014, when Uber was super small in Colombia and there was a huge over and around its legality I was very close to working there.
I was interviewing for a job and I remember telling Michael Shoemaker “Uber is going to be HUGE in Colombia. It's inevitable. All the benefits of the service were great, sure, but knowing you could get into a car and wouldn’t risk your life? You know how powerful that is?”
The law says Uber is illegal and the law must be upheld. Sure, but riddle me this:
What is the purpose of the government? To ensure the well-being of its people. The law is the mechanism to achieve this.
2MM riders and almost 90k drivers for Uber in Colombia make the unequivocal case that Ride-sharing is a net benefit for the country. What's more, Ride-sharing has been around in Latam for over 6 years, everything that works and doesn’t with the model is no longer a question, it’s extensively documented.
If “upholding the law” were a good argument in itself, then what would have been the fate of women’s right to vote in the 1920s, or the right. Is it preposterous to compare women’s rights to ride-sharing regulation? Absolutely, I'm simply making a point that it is absurd to think about legality without context. This is not a valid argument.
What’s not preposterous, is that after six years, 2mm riders, 88k drivers and a gazillion rides, there has been no regulation whatsoever. Every day that passes - the decision of not regulating is more indefensible.
As consumers, we don’t ‘need’ regulation now. We should be ashamed and upset that this hasn't already been dealt with.
Side note: the biggest reason I didn’t accept a job at Uber in late 2014, was because my mother - who I’ve since cry only when people die - called me scared out of her mind and while crying forbid me to take a public facing role in a company that was going to go against the taxi industry. She was sure I was going to get stabbed or worse. That’s how dangerous it feels to go against that interest group.
Uber, and several other ride-sharing companies have flourished in Latin America because it’s badly needed.
They did so in an environment of prosecution, intimidation and fear encouraged by special interest groups. They flourished because users, and drivers preferred breaking the ‘law' and using a better service that help them financially and would make them safer. The arguments of employment rights, insurance and contribution to the national safety net need to be sorted out and are being debated round the world.
What is not debatable is safety. Your safety. I wish I could share more data publicly but I'll share this tidbit. Being veeeeeeeeery conservative, I can state for a fact in Colombia you are over 30 times more likely to have an incident in a Taxi than in on a Ride-sharing app.
Uber has been in Colombia for 6 years. They've worked tirelessly, provided us all with great benefits and now have been forced to leave the country. Now they need our help. The only way this gets sorted out is by pressuring for a solid regulatory framework.
So please, Take action. Call your representative, call the everyone you know in government, tell them your stories. Make sure they represent your interest, the interest of 2MM riders as opposed to a small interest group that's trying to hold progress back.