Uber threatens Colombia with treaty-based arbitration after ban on use of its ride-sharing app

In a letter to Colombia’s President, the US-based ridesharing services platform Uber Technologies and its Colombian subsidiary, Uber Colombia, have threatened to initiate arbitration proceedings against Colombia under the Colombia-US Trade Promotion Agreement.

In the December 30, 2019 letter [click to download], the claimants allege that Colombia violated the TPA when its regulatory agency for commerce and trade (Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio, or SIC) issued a December 20, 2019 decision that effectively bans the use of the Uber ride-sharing app in Colombia. (The SIC decision had been widely covered in international media, owing to the size of Uber’s presence in Colombia; according to these earlier reports, the SIC decision was premised on competition law considerations.)

According to the claimants, Colombia also imposed a fine against the companies without offering them the opportunity to review the complaints which led to the sanction.

The claimants argue that their treatment stems from political pressure exercised by “domestic interests”. Indeed, the claimants also allege that they are the victim of discrimination, as other competitors have not faced the same treatment.

The claimants profess to seek a solution through consultation and negotiations, but they reserve the right to initiate arbitration proceedings at a later point in time. It appears that this letter is meant as a pre-notice of dispute, since the claimants explicitly “reserve the right to deliver a notice of intent” while the negotiations remain ongoing.

Uber is represented by Covington & Burling in Washington DC.