Colombia’s Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio, or Superintendence of Industry & Commerce, akin to the US Federal Trade Commission, has announced a punitive fine on Uber Colombia SAS, Uber’s Colombia subsidiary, after Uber officials and lawyers allegedly blocked access by administrators and refused to cooperate with the Superintendence’s investigative site visit.
Uber’s Statement: “From Uber Colombia SAS we respect the law and the decisions issued by the authorities. The company has not received notification of the first instance decision adopted by the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce, which is not firm. Once the company is notified of the decision, it will carry out the corresponding analysis in order to define the relevance of filing the resources of the case”
On October 13, 2019, officers of the Delegation for Protection of Competition attempted a visit of Uber’s Bogotá offices and were blocked from access by Uber personnel. According to the Superintendence in resolution 34942 of 2019:
- There is a business policy within Uber Colombia SAS in which its officials are instructed on how to behave during visits of an administrative authority such as the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce. By virtue of such, there are institutional instructions not to provide authorities with information regarding the company’s business or grant access to the computers and other equipment of the company, such as during the visit carried out by Superintendence Authorities.
- The company presented an obstinate and obstructive attitude towards the requirements of the Delegation for Protection of Competition
- Uber ignored multiple orders to implement internal procedures for inspection of electronic documents and files that the Delegation ordered blocked.
- The company obstructed the delivery of different corporate documents such as statutes, assembly minutes, balance sheets, and others required by Delegation officials and deemed relevant to the visit. According to the Superintendence, “Thus and despite being within the reach of the company, it did not take the necessary steps so that said documents were submitted to the authority.”
In addition to the corporate fine of COP $2,128,258,120 Pesos, or approximately $620,000 USD, The Superintendence fined Uber Colombia legal advisor Natalia Patricia Caroprese Castro $14,906,088 Colombian Pesos ($4,337 USD), legal advisor to Uber Colombia, Felipe Alberto Sandoval Villamil $24,843,480 Colombian Pesos ($7,230 USD), and manager of Uber Colombia’s offices, Andrés Felipe Bedoya Sánchez $4,968,696 ($1,446 USD).
According to Colombian legal expert Humberto Rodriguez, managing partner of Rodriguez y Asociados, under Colombian law, judicial search warrants are not required in all cases when there are administrative investigations. For example, the DIAN (Colombian Tax Authorities) or Superintendence of Industry and Commerce have to send a letter saying that they are going to conduct an investigation and will inspect certain documents. There are exceptional cases when the DIAN or another administrative authority suspects fraud and they can use POLFA – Policia Fiscal y Aduanera without advance notice, but in that case they need a warrant from a judge or a prosecutor