On Monday, the recruiting of drivers began and in 15 days Bee Go will be the new player in the market of “collaborative mobility and public transport”, challenging Uber. And of course the informal (piratas) and formal (red) taxi drivers.

César Blasco, general manager of Bee Go Latin America.  Esteban Monge/La República

The company, of French capital, aims to recruit some 10,000 drivers during its first year.

To challenge Uber in user preference, Bee Go will not only provide service in all seven provinces – unlike Uber that is only available in the greater metropolitan area (GAM) of San Jose – but will also be offering better conditions to its drivers.

César Blasco, general manager for Latin America of Bee Go, said the decision to invest in the country is due to the fact that Costa Rica has, per capita, one of the highest collaborative mobility users in the region.

As of Tuesday, the company reported some that 4,800 drivers or “collaborating partners” signed up on the platform, of which 1,520 met the requirements.

Blasco added that the app is only available (for now) only at the Google Play Store for Android users. No word when the app will be available to iOS (Apple) users.

Bee Go accepts older vehicles, from 2000 to 2018, current with the Riteve (vehicular inspection), Marchamo (circulating permit), with a strict process of review and verification for vehicles between 2000 and 2005; Drivers must hold a valid B1 license and have a clean police record.

Drivers working for Bee Go will pay 15% for the use of the platform (compared to 25% charged by Uber), will receive aguinaldo* (year end bonus), medical coverage and a bonus of ¢25,000 colones for each driver referred.

According to Blasco users of the application would pay a similar rate to the one already set by Uber, with a difference, Bee Go has a static rate, that is, unlike Uber that triggers a change in the fare when it rains or there is a lot of demand, for exampl, the new app will not do so.

Like Uber, Bee Go will start operations being an illegal transport service, since the government of Carlos Alvarado determined a month ago, that the use of technological platforms does not comply with legal requirements. However, Blasco minimizes the opposition of the government, since the Free Trade Agreement with Europe (FTA) does not prohibit the development and operation of collaborative mobility applications.

“The FTA (Tratado Libre de Comercio “TLC”  in Spanish) with Europe does not include any prohibition on collaborative mobility and what is not prohibited is allowed (…) trade agreements are above any law of the Republic,” Blasco added.

The company will, however, most likely face opposition from the (formal) taxi drivers’ association, who are calling on the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT) to intensify the operations against the Uber and other platforms.

While the companies, Bee Go and Uber continue to operate normally despite the Government’s bowing to pressure by the taxi driver’s demands of declaring ride apps illegal, the Legislative Assembly began last week, to debate three bills aimed at modifying the law of public transport and thus validate “collaborative mobility”.

On the side of Bee Go, Uber and consumers is Asociación de Víctimas del Estado (AVES) – Association of Victims of the State.

Given that lawmakers in Costa Rica average 18 months to pass a law, AVES asked the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE) – Supreme Electoral Tribunal – to hold a referendum to validate the use of technological platforms to public transport.

“The popular consultation aims to reform the public transport law, so that the use of technological platforms is allowed. This would open up the opportunity for Uber and other companies that operate in a similar way to do it legally in Costa Rica,” said Carlos Porras, president of AVES.

This report was prepared with reports from La Republica and Crhoy.com

*The aguinaldo is based on the driver contributing 3% of his/her earnings and the company matching the amount at the end of the year.