A taxi and a ride-hailing vehicle, side by side in Malaga. / francisco jiménez

Uber, Cabify and Bolt can continue to operate in Malaga and on the Costa from October, but only under certain conditions

The Junta de Andalucía has agreed to regulate the sector and is currently finalising the details, but there is tension with both the taxi and ride-hailing sectors

I. LILLO / F. JIMÉNEZ Malaga

Companies which hire out vehicles with drivers, such as Uber, Cabify and Bolt in Malaga and elsewhere on the Costa del Sol, will be able to continue operating from 1 October as the Junta de Andalucía is preparing to regulate the sector.

The government in Madrid has told regional authorities that they must draw up regulations or the ride-hailing companies will only be able to operate between different municipalities and not within a town or city. For example, if that were the case, these drivers would be able to transport clients from Malaga Airport to Torremolinos, but not from the airport to the city centre.

The Junta de Andalucía, having been delegated this ‘hot potato’ by the government, decided to opt for regulation and the details will be known in the next few days. They are expected to include a whole battery of measures to safeguard the taxi sector and ensure that it remains profitable.

Environmentally friendly

One possibility currently being discussed is that the VTCs will have to be a certain size, which will mean that only saloon cars can be used for ride-hailing. The vehicles will also have to be environmentally-friendly (hybrid or electric) and have special – and very costly - insurance.

The Junta may insist that drivers can only work in a city or town if they have had a licence for at least one year, and they will not be allowed to stop or park near bus and train stations, hotels or other busy areas. Drivers will have to be specifically trained and there will be fines for any who fail to comply with the rules.

Minimum gaps

Discussions are also being held about the possibility of establishing a minimum gap between the time of booking and the time of pick-up. However, this has already been causing problems in areas such as Aragón, Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, the Basque Country, Galicia, Valencia and Murcia, where in some cases the gap is 15 minutes and in others it is one hour: the ride-hailing companies are taking legal action to try to get this stopped.

In its recent recommendations for good regulatory practices for this sector, the European Commission warned against this idea. The taxi sector in Andalucía, however, appears to be in favour of it and wants ride-hailing companies to operate exclusively under this pre-booking system so their drivers cannot respond immediately to a request for transport.

The biggest associations in the ride-hailing sector, Unauto and Aseval, say they also want to see regulation but they are not prepared to accept a system whereby there has to be a gap between booking and pick-up.