May 25, 2015 / 4:40 PM / 4 years ago

Uber offers free rides in Mexico City as local taxi drivers protest

MEXICO CITY, May 25 (Reuters) - Uber said customers in Mexico City could use its service for free on Monday as local taxi drivers staged citywide protests against possible regulation of ride-hailing services such as the company’s and Cabify.

“As today is a difficult day to get around, we have decided to give away Uber rides to all users, because #MexicoDoesntStop #UberDoesntStop,” the company said on its website. Users can take two journeys worth up to 150 pesos ($9.82) each for free.

Local taxi drivers are holding the latest in a series of marches and road blocks across the city on Monday in protest against the possible legitimatizing of what they say are illegal services.

Mexico City’s government has been holding roundtables to help it work out how best to regulate services such as Uber. The service opened in the city in 2013 and says it has about 300,000 users there.

Uber is a private car service, not a taxi service, and is working with authorities on the new rules, Mexico spokesman Luis De Uriarte said. The company said it, not the drivers, would bear the cost of making the service free on Monday.

Uber recently dropped its prices in Mexico City, with the minimum fare now 40 pesos.

A typical preordered taxi in the city starts the meter at 27.30 pesos, while cabs hailed on the street start at just below 9 pesos.

Taxi driver Juan Luis Uscandia said the march was to try to remove services like Uber and fight new city rules dictating that all cabs must be painted pink.

“We have to pay for car taxes, taxi license plates, permits, and all the rest, while Uber drivers just pay vehicle verification and that’s it,” he said.

Many local taxi drivers purchase their own vehicles and are paying off loans on them.

$1 = 15.2747 Mexican pesos Reporting by Christine Murray and Max de Haldevang; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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