Uber is a taxi firm and NOT a digital service, rules European Court of Justice
In the latest blow to Uber’s business model, the ride-hailing app has been officially classified as a transport company and not a digital service by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
The case was raised by Barcelona’s Asociación Profesional Elite Taxi organisation after Uber was told its drivers had to obey local taxi rules in Barcelona. Uber argued it wasn’t a taxi company so wasn’t bound by such rules and classed itself as an “information society service”.
In its ruling, the ECJ said Uber is a so-called intermediation service and its purpose is “to connect, by means of a smartphone application and for remuneration, non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with persons who wish to make urban journeys.”
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This, the ECJ continued, means Uber must be regarded as being “inherently linked to a transport service and, accordingly, must be classified as ‘a service in the field of transport’ within the meaning of EU.” law”.
Although Uber has said that the decision is unlikely to make a difference to how it operates in Europe, it does now mean Uber must conform to more EU rules.
“As EU law currently stands,” the ruling continued, “it is for the member states to regulate the conditions under which such services are to be provided in conformity with the general rules of the treaty on the functioning of the EU.”
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An Uber spokesperson responded: “This ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law. However, millions of Europeans are still prevented from using apps like ours. As our new CEO has said, it is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe. This is the approach we’ll take to ensure everyone can get a reliable ride at the tap of a button.”
This latest regulatory change comes after Uber was told last month that the appeal to renew its London licence “could take years”. Transport for London claimed Uber was “unfit” to run a taxi service in the capital back in August and refused to renew its licence in September. Uber can continue to operate in London while it’s appeal is being processed, and the company has said it will be looking at ways it can work with TfL to tackle some of the concerns.
Its licence ran out in October, but its drivers can continue to work in London while it tries to appeal.