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Uber returns to Barcelona as fully licensed service

The ride-hailing company is bringing its UberX service to the Spanish city, after pulling UberPop in late 2014.

Barcelona's Sagrada Familia at night

Barcelona, watch out: Uber is back.

Fernando Vazquez Miras / Getty Images

Uber is returning to Barcelona as a fully licensed ride-hailing service over three years after it backed out of the Spanish city, the company said Tuesday.

Its new UberX service will rely on hundreds of licensed drivers operating in accordance with city regulations. Previously, the company operated its peer-to-peer service UberPop in the city, which allowed ride-sharing between strangers and caused outrage amid the established taxi trade in the city.

Following protests and a mounting legal challenge, Uber pre-emptively withdrew from Barcelona in December 2014.

In the past, Uber's disregard for local regulations in cities throughout Europe and the wider world has resulted in the company being poorly received and sometimes facing outright bans in some markets. UberPop has proved particularly troublesome because it doesn't use licensed drivers, but complaints about the service also encompass passenger safety and other operating issues.

Last September the company had its license to operate in London revoked. It's appealing the decision.

Under the leadership of CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who took the helm at Uber in August 2017, the company has shown determination to change its attitude toward local regulations.

"We made mistakes along the way," said Uber's general manager for Southwest Europe, Carles Lloret, in a blog post announcing the company's re-entry to Barcelona.

"We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of the cities in which we operate. Barcelona is no exception."

Lloret said the demand for Uber in Barcelona was huge, with half a million people opening the app in the city last summer in the hope of hailing a ride. The service is available in Barcelona starting immediately and complies with all local laws.

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