By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The fight between Uber and the taxi drivers of Rio de Janeiro has once again spilled over into a confrontation between Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor, Eduardo Paes, and the judiciary.
Early Monday, November 28th, Mayor Paes confirmed that he had signed into law a bill that bans ride-hailing app services like Uber but only a few hours later Rio’s state court, the Tribunal de Justiça (Court of Justice), issued an injunction allowing Uber to continue operating. In her order, Judge Marcia Alvarenga, pointed out that the activities of Uber and its drivers have been carried out for “some time without serious social harm.”
Sven van ‘t Veer, a senior attorney at Nicodemos & Nederstigt Advogados Associados, a Rio de Janeiro-based law firm specialized in expatriate matters in Brazil, detailed for The Rio Times Judge Alvarenga’s order. “[In the order] the Judge points to another suit in which a very similar municipal law was declared unconstitutional,” he explained, “since only the Federal Legislature can make legislation on public and private transportation, according to article 22, incision XI of the Federal Constitution, and such legislation exists.”
According to Van ‘t Veer, “This new law, passed yesterday by the outgoing mayor, Eduardo Paes, will follow the same path as the above-mentioned case, which shows how ill-prepared our city legislature is.”
Monday’s face-off between Mayor Paes and the judiciary was a replay of the events of almost exactly one year ago when, in September 2015, Mayor Paes signed a similar law attempting to shut down Uber in Rio, which as here, the courts later overruled. The difference this time, however, is that here it only took the court several hours to overrule the mayor.
In a released statement, Uber was quick to point out the redundancy of the mayor’s actions. “To sanction [this law], which prohibits services such as those provided by Uber and its partner drivers, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, ignores not only the right to choose of the more than 1,200,000 Uber users, but also the decision of the Rio Court that ensured the activity of Uber and its partners after the same law was sanctioned by [Mayor Paes] last year,” the company exclaimed.
According to Uber, “there are more than thirty court decisions that confirm the legality of services provided by Uber’s partner drivers. Reaffirming our commitment to these users and partners, Uber is still operating in Rio de Janeiro.”
Much of the ire against Uber from taxi drivers in Rio and in cities across the globe, stems from the fact that Uber is registered as a technology company, and therefore is not subject to the many government regulations, such as taxation and other fees, that are required of a typical transportation company and taxi drivers.