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Uber Files sparks more protests and calls to investigate lobbying efforts

Politicians and advocates are demanding action in Spain, France and the United Kingdom.

A political coalition in Spain is proposing that an investigative commission look into Uber’s past actions in the country, following revelations made in the Uber Files.

Unidad Podemos, a group of left leaning political organizations, called on the national congress to appoint a commision to analyze whether Spanish and European laws were adequate to prevent multinational companies exerting undue pressure on officials or wielding outsized influence over regulatory frameworks, according to ICIJ partner El País.

“It is a scandal of tremendous proportions that puts the legal order of the world’s democracies at risk,” said congressman Rafael Mayoral, speaker of the Transport Commission. “We believe that it is time for this not to go unnoticed, that it is necessary to investigate.”

The Uber Files is a global reporting collaboration led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and The Guardian. The investigation is based on a trove of internal documents leaked by a former Uber executive, detailing the company’s tactics to force its way into markets around the world.

The revelations have roiled Europe, sparking taxi driver protests in Italy, France and the United Kingdom, calls for probes of authorities whose dealings with Uber were detailed in the files, and demands to reform lobbying regulations in several countries.

In France, the National Union of Taxis told newspaper La Dépêche on Wednesday that it will take legal action against President Emmanuel Macron for alleged “influence peddling and conflict of interests.” The Uber Files detail Macron’s private communications and several undisclosed meetings he had with the ride-hailing startup between 2014 and 2016, when he was economy minister and Uber was lobbying to change regulations and expand in France.

On Tuesday, dozens of taxi drivers rallied in front of the French National Assembly in Paris. The drivers said they were staging the demonstration, despite a record-breaking heatwave, to denounce “collusion between the state and digital platforms,” according to media reports.

Opposition parties have pushed for a parliamentary inquiry into Macron’s relationship with Uber. But Macron has denied any wrongdoing and said he was proud of the work he did trying to attract businesses to France. Last week, an opposition coalition failed to pass a motion for a no confidence vote against Macron to symbolically protest his government and economic policies, according to the Associated Press.

In the U.K, the App Drivers and Couriers Union, which represents “gig economy” workers, asked Uber customers to boycott the platform for 24 hours and join a demonstration in front of the company’s headquarters in London on Wednesday in response to the Uber Files, according to The Guardian.

ADCU drivers are demanding better wages and working conditions following a landmark 2021 U.K. Supreme Court decision ruling that Uber drivers are employees entitled to benefits and not freelance contractors as they had been classified by Uber for years.

Uber said that it has complied with the court’s ruling and a company’s spokesperson told The Guardian that ADCU represents a tiny proportion of active drivers.

In Italy, taxi drivers protests came to an end amid Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s resignation, following a political crisis in the country. Drivers had been protesting for weeks against a bill supported by Draghi’s government that they claim threatens the taxi industry by allowing more competition from companies like Uber.

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