Via Reuters Finance

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Uber has told the Colombian government it is considering taking its dispute with the Andean country to international arbitration, the company’s general manager for Latin America told Reuters on Monday.

A billboard that reads “Goodbye Colombia, A solution for Uber now” is seen in Bogota, Colombia, January 30, 2020. Picture taken January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

Citing violation of a trade deal with the United States for escalating the dispute, the ride-hailing firm said its initial calculations suggest damages from suspending its service in Colombia will exceed $250 million.

Uber departed Colombia on Friday after a court in December ruled the company had violated competition rules and ordered it to cease operating. Prior to its departure, Uber said it had 2.3 million active users in Latin America’s fourth-largest economy, as well as 88,000 drivers.

“We are considering this option as well as other legal recourses (in Colombia),” Uber’s George Gordon said in a telephone interview.

He said Uber wants to return to Colombia but added that it was up to the government to find an outcome.

“We want to come back but it is a question of when and how,” he said. “When? As soon as possible. How? That is up to the government. They could resolve it today if they wanted.”

At Davos, President Ivan Duque told Reuters technology companies were welcome in Colombia, but said they had to operate on a level playing field.

In a statement, the company said Colombia’s decision constituted censorship that went against freedom of expression online and internet neutrality, saying it had been unfairly treated.

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“In contrast to the measures taken against Uber, other companies from Colombia and elsewhere have not been subject to the same treatment and continue operating in the country,” Uber said. “This will allow our competitors to grow their market share in Colombia at Uber’s expense.”

Uber said Colombia’s actions had failed to provide it with the same favorable treatment it grants other companies and that it had breached its obligations to U.S investors under the trade accord.

While it proceeds with the options available to it, Uber said its clear preference is to find a quick and friendly solution to the dispute.

Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Additional reporting and writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Franklin Paul and Dan Grebler