Why Barcelona has no Uber

Español | Català

Barcelona has opened its arms to welcome the world’s top mobile technology conference once again this week. Tens of thousands of delegates have flown in from every corner of the earth for Mobile World Congress. Many of them will open the Uber app on their smartphone, hoping to tap a button and get a ride, just as they do in 400 cities around the world. But they will have discovered Uber is not available in Spain.

Spain has one of the most restrictive transport laws in Europe, limiting choice for anyone who wants to get around safely and affordably. At a time when Spain’s unemployment rate is above 20% (and 50% among young people), these regulations also restrict the number of economic opportunities for people wanting to drive for a living. Elsewhere in Europe thousands of people use Uber to earn an income, including as many as 25,000 professional drivers in London and 12,000 in Paris. Spain is the only large country in Europe where there is no option to earn money with Uber.

It will not be easy to move around Barcelona this week. There is potential disruption both to the metro service but you will not see an increased number of taxis on the road to compensate. We would love to put our technology to use at MWC, and so help prevent endless queues in La Fira or the city center. Just a few weeks ago at the Super Bowl, American football’s championship game, Uber demonstrated how it can improve mobility around a big event. We would have loved to bring this same type of service to attendees at MWC.

We hope Spain will seize the opportunity this year to modernize its transportation regulations, joining many cities across the United States, Australia, India, and Mexico in adopting common-sense rules that allow taxis and Uber to exist side by side, while expanding transport choices for locals and visitors alike. The Spanish Competition Authority has recently intervened, urging the removal of some of the restrictions holding back private hire drivers. Maybe, with your support, the signal from Barcelona will be much better by next year’s MWC and everyone will be able to open an app on their smartphone to get quickly, safely and affordably from A to B.