Uber takes on taxi drivers with free ice cream

The people behind the mobile taxi app Uber have gone on a charm offensive, offering free ice creams on Friday afternoon to users in Barcelona, a city where use of the controversial app is currently banned.

From 1pm to 7pm, Uber will be delivering free ice creams to its users in Barcelona, along with a "small gift", the company said in a statement.

The campaign #UberIceCream is being run in 144 cities around but Barcelona is the only Spanish city featured.

The initiative is the latest bid by the company to spruce up its image in the Catalan capital.

The Spanish region of Catalonia recently announced it would fine drivers using the popular app up to €6,000 ($8,000).

Taxi drivers argue the app threatens their livelihood, and have responded with a series of strikes.

Spain's national government in Madrid originally touted fines for Uber users but backed down after the European Union said planned penalties were too harsh.

Uber was seeking open dialogue with Spanish authorities, the company told The Local recently.

"We comply with all applicable tax laws in each of the markets we operate in," the company told The Local recently, adding that they believed there was room of everyone in the transport market.

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Barcelona taxi drivers prepare legal battle against Uber and Cabify

A Barcelona-based association of taxi drivers on Thursday announced it would lodge a legal complaint against ride-hailing services Uber and Cabify for fraud and other offences.

Barcelona taxi drivers prepare legal battle against Uber and Cabify
Photo: AFP

In all the Elite Taxi group, which represents 2,000 drivers, will take on 11 firms and 15 individuals, as well as US-based Uber and Spanish company Cabify, according to Alberto Alvarez, spokesman for the association.   

The legal complaint, to be lodged in Madrid next week, is just the latest attempt by registered taxi drivers in several countries to stop potential customers using the new, less regulated, services which they believe provide unfair competition.

The accusations will include fraud but also money-laundering, tax infringements and flouting workers' rights.   

Rideshare companies maintain that drivers are able to thrive and maintain work flexibility, and that their business model would not work if drivers were treated as wage-based employees.

In late 2017, the Elite Taxi association obtained a judicial victory when the European Court of Justice ruled that Uber is an ordinary transportation company instead of just an online app and should be regulated as such.   

Last year Spanish taxi drivers went on strike for several days, calling in the authorities to restrain the activities of the ride-hailing operators.   

In several Spanish cities, including  Valencia and Barcelona, new rules have been adopted including requiring customers of ride-hailing services to book a ride at least 15 minutes in advance.

READ MORE: Uber and Cabify suspend services in Barcelona in row over new regulations