Ride-hailing company Uber has ceased operations in Colombia after failing to reach an agreement with the country’s authorities about how it should be regulated.
When users of the service opened the app on Saturday they were greeted with a message saying “Adiós Colombia”. “Many thanks for joining us on this six-year journey,” the company said in a message emailed to its local users.
The decision to leave Latin America’s third most populous country follows a court ruling in December that Uber had violated competition law. Uber described the ruling as “arbitrary” and said it would quit on February 1.
The San Francisco-based firm had operated in Colombia since 2013 but the government had never regulated it, and it faced constant opposition from powerful taxi drivers’ syndicates. Last year it cancelled plans to build a $40m support centre in Colombia, citing uncertainty over the regulatory environment.
Uber says it provided employment for around 88,000 drivers in Colombia and a service to 2.3m users. The government said it should have registered itself as a transport company in Colombia and had repeatedly refused to do so.
Many of those drivers and users are expected to switch to rival ride-hailing services like China’s Didi Chuxing and Greece’s Beat, which both operate in Colombia. However, in the light of the recent court ruling their future in the country is also in doubt.
The decision is a blow to Colombia’s President Iván Duque, who has pledged to make “The Orange Economy” — creative and technological industries — a pillar of his government.
In a recent briefing with foreign correspondents, Bogotá’s mayor Claudia López criticised him for not finding a solution to the Uber problem and said the decision to order the company to leave “sends a bad message about the country”.
“I deeply regret that Colombia’s youngest president, the president of the Orange Economy, the creative industries, is the president who’s expelling a creative, technological industry,” she said.