Uber in Mexico City

By Sofia-Marie Mascia

To what degree is a foreign company obligated to civic accountability under local laws? Uber launched in Mexico City in 2013, gaining 500,000 users in its first two years of operation. While the company has since become subject to threats of regulation charges by the Mexican government, it has arguably generated more social good in the nation’s capital than any multinational company.

Uber provides the Mexican commuter a degree of safety that the regular taxi industry does not offer. The Uber App works in the same manner, regardless of the nation it operates in. GPS tracking has become indispensable to Mexican citizens in a city where kidnappings, shootings, and assault are synonymous with the taxi industry. Digital receipts through the Uber app — as opposed to inefficient paper transactions — have created fewer opportunities for theft, extortion, and confrontations over unpaid fares. Due to the consistency of the company’s regulations, Uber drivers undergo stringent criminal background checks and drug screenings, which of course is not the case for privately owned taxis. Taxi drivers often forgo any regulatory requirements due to lack of active enforcement by the city government.

However, some critics have argued that Uber poses ethical problems on labor grounds, as the company’s presence in Mexico City threatens an entire transportation industry and the workers in its unions. After receiving legal complaints from local Mexican Taxi Union workers in 2015, Secretary of Mobility Rufino León Tovar suggested requiring Uber drivers pay for a permit, though he also praised the service for giving the people of the city “a perception of great security.” However, Uber simply met this controversy by offering 150 pesos worth of free rides to its users — boosting overall usage by 2016.

Since the threats of 2015, the Mexico City government fund threatening to collect 1.5% of revenue from car-hailing services such as Uber has still not been created. The taxi industry, plagued by fraud and assault has not adjusted to the market incomer offering safe rides, backed by an international GPS and payment system. While a company must comply with domestic regulation charges to fully claim corporate responsibility, Uber’s larger responsibility lies in changing the landscape of transportation in the name of safety and efficiency.