The fourth great decree in less than eight years. The ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), which knocked down the quantitative limitation of authorizations that use platforms such as Uber or Cabify, concluding that it did not comply with European regulations, accelerates events. The battle of the sector once again moves to the offices. The Government has put the taxi and the VTC on guard with its decision to prop up a new legislative modification in the midst of the pre-campaign of the July 23 elections.
The decree, which would be added to the other three approved and executed in 2015 and 2018 and to many others that implied minor changes in the regulations and conditions, could be ready in the Council of Ministers next Tuesday and with it they seek to avoid that there is already a flurry of driver’s car licenses as happened in the middle of the last decade. The taxi demands speed to obtain this armor before the polls and in anticipation of a potential change of government. The VTC asks for a calmer debate and at least, to be able to be at the negotiating table of a new regulation in which it is one of the main affected.
The first big decree took place in 2015 ‘extra’ requirements: each fleet manager must have a minimum of seven vehicles to operate and the cars must measure a minimum of 4.60 meters. It was the first restriction. At that time, VTC licenses had doubled to more than 4,000 throughout Spain due to the ‘legal hole’ left by the ‘bus law’. From then on, the decree law has been repeated as a weapon given its speed (and the difficulty of appealing it in court): two were approved in 2018 and now one is ‘in the oven’.
Since last December the EU Advocate General pointed the way with his position, there has hardly been any reaction to the spotlight. No ‘preventive movements’ were registered, as was the case in 2018. In April of that year, just a month before the Supreme Court decided on 1-30, Fomento raised a decree law that modified the transport regulations alleging the need to “guarantee the right balance” between taxi and VTC. First raised to law rank on 1-30. The bandage was put on before a blow from the TS arrived, which did not take place, since the magistrates concluded that it was legal. This time it has been saved without moving a tab while, according to sources in the VTC sector, new VTC miles have been requested by individuals and companies in anticipation of the regulatory change.
Faced with this situation and with a threat of mobilizations by some taxi associations, the Ministry of Transport will hold a meeting today with representatives of the national federation Antaxi and Élite Taxi Barcelona, in which they will analyze some of the details of the decree that work is being done ‘against the clock’ in the offices. The minister admitted this Monday that she is working “with the sector to find a formula that guarantees balance.” With a 1-30 knocked down by the CJUE, the measures that are proposed consist of establishing environmental or traffic conditions to be able to stop the granting of the national license -beyond the second regional license-. The key, as explained by sources in the VTC sector, is not so much what is imposed in the future but whether the law imposes retroaction for all authorizations requested but not granted. This feedback is especially delicate from a legal point of view.
The taxi is raising the same maneuver as just a year ago. In June 2022, the threats of mobilizations by some of these associations had an immediate effect. A meeting that was to be held in Transport to analyze a potential one-year moratorium on the four-year ‘grace period’ for licenses after the ‘Ábalos decree’ was suspended ‘in extremis’. The Socialist Party of Catalonia, particularly close to the taxi sector in that region, put pressure on the department led by Raquel Sánchez, also a member of its executive. Now he has threatened mobilizations in a key pre-campaign if there is no urgent regulation to cover possible future holes. It must be remembered that Élite Taxi asked for the vote for Jaume Collboni in the municipal elections of Barcelona and today he is already mayor after having achieved the ‘in extremis’ pact with the PP.
At the VTC they don’t want to be in such a hurry. Cabify, which in addition to being a VTC platform owns hundreds of licenses and has appealed to the Supreme Court for half of the tens of miles awaiting ruling, calls for the creation of a dialogue table on urban mobility. The company asks that a “new regulatory patch” that generates “uncertainty and legal insecurity” be avoided. He insists that there should be represented sectors of others and groups and not just the taxi. For its part, one of the employers, Movea, insists that “an alarm that does not correspond to reality” is being fed. She recalls that the CJUE points out that the taxi cannot be considered a public service nor is it of general interest. Secondly, it talks about the second autonomic authorization. “There is no urgency given that the 2018 decree already disabled the VTCs to provide urban services.”
The battle returns, therefore, to the offices. Where it has been raging in recent years. The fourth decree in less than eight years is already outlined. But in the taxi they don’t have all of them with them either and they once again have demonstrations as their main weapon, as has happened in recent years. In the VTC, some of the large fleet managers are not particularly concerned, since they are not precisely determinants of a total liberalization that would sink the value of their authorizations and increase competition. The Government wants to put walls back between the two sectors, as was done in 2015 and 2018. The fourth great national decree has the entire sector on guard.