The European Court of Justice has ruled that 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’.”
This means that from a legal viewpoint, Uber will be recognised as a taxi company, rather than a digital technology platform. As such, Uber will fall under the regulations for transport companies.
‘Computer Services’ Business
Uber has denied for years that it is a transport company, arguing it is a computer services business. This position meant the company’s operations would be subject to EU legislation and directives governing e-commerce (and more importantly those which prohibit restrictions on organisations in that sector).
The court decision was made in Luxembourg, after the challenge was originally brought by taxi drivers in Barcelona. The court’s decision will apply across the whole of the EU, including the UK and cannot be appealed against.
An “intermediation service”, said to the ECJ, “the purpose of which 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, 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.”
“Consequently, such a service must be excluded from the scope of the freedom to provide services in general as well as the directive on services in the internal market and the directive on electronic commerce.”
“It follows that, as EU law currently stands, 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.”
The court found that the Uber app was indispensable for both the drivers and the persons who wish to make an urban journey,” making it more than an intermediation service.
The court also pointed out that Uber exercised ‘decisive influence’ over the conditions under which drivers worked. As such, Uber must be regarded as forming an integral part of an overall service, the main component of which was transport, concluded the court.
The Barcelona-based legal firm representing the taxi drivers who filed the lawsuit said that the ruling was “a social victory” with “great judicial significance”.
An Uber spokesperson said: “This ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law… It is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe.”
The judgement rounds of something of a troubled year for the company in which…
- It’s ongoing lawsuit with Waymo was rocked by allegations of massive surveillance and spying
- Uber lost its license to operate in London
- It suffered a massive data breach, losing data of 57 million users…
- …then bribed the hackers responsible to ‘lose’ the data…
- …then didn’t tell anyone for months
- Lost its appeal against drivers getting employee rights
- Had a driver accused of murdering a UK embassy worker in Beirut
- Closer to home, a driver lied to a user about the new Queensferry crossing being closed and charging nearly £200 for a 20 mile journey.
New CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has promised change. He may have his work cut out.