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Understand how per-app bus services work in SC

With the promise of up to 60% cheaper travel and a model that works through mobile apps, services dubbed "bus Uber" are gaining ground on Santa Catarina's highways. Precursor of the format in the country, Buser has been operating in Santa Catarina since December 2018 and, starting this Thursday (14) wins the competition of a format born in the state: the 4Bus.

The new app was born through the Association of Tourism and Freight Transport Companies of the State of SC (Aettusc) and the Road Passenger, Services and Technology Cooperative (Buscoop), and was developed by a Brusque software company in Vale from Itajaí.

Through the mobile app or website, passengers can search for intercity or interstate travel to scheduled destinations. It works as a "collective charter" service, where people with an interest in the same trip apportion the cost. Therefore the routes depend on a confirmation with minimum number of passengers interested – otherwise the amount is returned.

4Bus CEO Nilton Pacheco explains that the service works through a cooperative between tourism and charter companies. For the beginning of the operation of 4Bus this eve of holiday in Brazil, the service already has 43 partner companies and a fleet of 3450 buses in various states of Brazil – from Rio Grande do Sul to Maranhão. Almost half of the companies that are operating with the app are from Santa Catarina.

– The buses are new, covered with insurance, adapted to safety standards, all perfectly legal. They are some of the most traditional companies in the private market – explains Pacheco.

The difference between Santa Catarina 4Bus and Buser is the format of the operation behind the scenes. While the first is born from the corporate cooperative, Buser is a technology startup that partners with charter companies, almost as an outsourcing. For the passenger the service is virtually the same, with buses most often plotted with the brand of applications (pink on Buser and blue on 4Bus), but in some cases with the original ID of the private charter company.

4Bus began operations in SC in the cities of Florianópolis, Balneário Camboriú, Joinville and Chapecó, with trips to destinations such as Porto Alegre, Curitiba and São Paulo. The company's headquarters are in São José, in Greater Florianópolis.

The controversy of legality

Both Buser and 4Bus allege that they operate within all standards, as the charter companies providing the transportation services are registered and regularized with the National Land Transportation Agency (ANTT). However, passenger transport companies say the service is clandestine and would have no legal protection.

In SC a federal court injunction in October, at the request of the Union of Passenger Transport Companies of Santa Catarina (Setpes), even prohibited Buser from making interstate trips arriving or departing in Santa Catarina "in disagreement with the authorizations that the companies registered in its platform have". However, the service continued as normal, as the tour companies operating with Buser had all the permits.

In a note released earlier this year after similar situations in other states, ANTT only stated that "the actions of the inspection team reach the transport companies in order to verify the regularity of the resolutions established by the Agency and to ensure safety. passengers traveling within Brazil and from here to neighboring countries "and that companies should be within the standards set by two 2015 resolutions that detail the authorizations for chartering or transporting passengers.

The applications explain that the companies that participate in the service have the authorizations and, therefore, act within the legality. That is why, in practice, no travel was prohibited.

The claim is similar to that of Uber at the start of the operation: These are technology companies that "bring together people interested in a particular route and drivers." In the case of buses, applications that match charter companies with passengers – without characterizing them as a transportation company or ticket sales company. ANTT itself stated in the note that "the Agency does not establish any kind of direct relationship with Buser, either in the regulatory or supervisory aspect".

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