The National Criminal Appeals Court has just upheld a ruling by Buenos Aires City judge Alberto Luis Zelaya, who ruled earlier this year that Uber drivers are not in fact involved in criminal activity. Zelaya’s ruling had struck down charges against 33 Uber drivers but the litigating taxi union appealed. Now the appeals court has said the ruling stands.
Zelaya’s ruling was in August, but only became public late last month. By then, the Taxi Renters’ Union — which had made the charges and represents taxi drivers who do not own their own vehicles — had already appealed the ruling. Today, Judges Ricardo Pinto, Mirta Lopez González and Mauro Divito voted unanimously to dismiss that appeal.
The allegations against the drivers involved “disloyal competition, disobedience, instigating crime, illicit activity and disrupting transport.” However, the appeals court agreed with Zelaya’s initial ruling which states that “the company does not incur in any crime [nor] complicate transport [in the City.] There may be administrative infringements and traffic offenses, but not crimes.”
Is it over? Of course it isn’t over. The taxi drivers can still appeal and the big fight against Uber isn’t being fought in a criminal court anyway.
Although these 33 Uber drivers have been acquitted of charges, that does not mean Uber is officially legal as a service since the ride-sharing app is not legally allowed to operate in the City of Buenos Aires. More generally, the ruling means the Uber drivers can do their jobs unhindered.
Since Uber was launched in Argentina this year, taxi drivers have held demonstrations and even gone on “hunts” for Ubers. The City of Buenos Aires government has been adamantly against Uber from the start and considers the service to be illegal. Police and traffic cops perform random checks on Uber vehicles and local credit cards are blocked from processing Uber payments (although Argentines have found ways around the restrictions).