An association of Spanish bus operators (Confebus) has announced it is taking popular ride-sharing platform, BlaBlaCar, to court, arguing it provides “unfair competition” when it comes to transport in Spain.
The French-based car-pooling company has seen its popularity soar in Spain since it was founded five years ago. It is currently the most popular ride-sharing platform in the country, with Spain constituting its biggest market after France. It boasts around nine million users across Europe.
Its rising popularity has provoked the ire of Confebus, who have reported the company for unfair competition, after documenting its activities for the past year.
BlaBlaCar will appear in court in Madrid on October 1st and must prepare its defence to avoid meeting the same fate as fellow transport-provider Uber, which is currently facing legal battles from taxi unions across Europe.
In a strange coincidence, BlaBlaCar will appear in the same court that banned Uber from operating in Spain in December 2014.
While Uber offers what is more like a taxi service, BlaBlaCar is a platform for drivers to offer car shares.
Drivers publish the journey they are about to take and how many free seats are in their car, while people interested in making the same journey ask to take one of the seats, with all the travellers then sharing the cost of the journey.
BlaBlaCar suggests a range of prices depending on the service and acts as an intermediary in dividing up the cost of travel expenses between travellers.
Passengers pay in advance via the online platform, with BlaBlaCar taking a 10 percent commission plus VAT from each journey.
BlaBlaCar has so far managed to avoid many of the regulatory issues that have plagued Uber because it ensures that, while drivers share the costs of the journey with their passengers, they do not make a profit.
Confebus begs to differ, however, alleging that many BlaBlaCar drivers are making journeys solely to make money from taking passengers from point A to B as well as not carrying a license that is necessary in Spain to transport passengers:
“Of course it's unfair competition,” Confebus co-president Rafael Barbadillo told Spanish daily El Mundo. “They act as intermediaries, propose prices and receive a commission. The rules should be for everyone. We are either all in or all out,” he said.
Confebus has presented information to a Spanish judge on how BlaBlaCar has constituted unfair competition on 74 bus routes across Spain.