The top European court says Uber is subject to regulation as a transit service, rather than simply a tech platform as the ridesharing company had argued.
David Royse | LedeTree
Taxi drivers in Barcelona took Uber to court back in 2014 arguing that it was essentially an unregulated, and therefore, illegal taxi service. On Wednesday, the Court Justice of the European Union, agreed with the taxi drivers that Uber is essentially a ride service, not just an app.
“The Court declares that an intermediation service … 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,” the court said.
“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,” it said.
Uber launched in Europe six years ago, and now operates around the world.
An Uber a spokesman said in an email that the company already operates under transportation laws in most countries in Europe.
“This ruling will not change things in most EU countries,” the spokesman said. “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.”
In several major European cities, including those in France, Uber is already regulated essentially like a taxi company. Uber has been unable to reach an agreement to operate in some big European cities, including Copenhagen and Budapest.
Taxi drivers in some European countries have protested against Uber, including in Spain, where taxi drivers held a one-day strike in Madrid and Barcelona last month.
European regulatory law regarding tech services is intentionally hands-off, meant to encourage innovation. Uber had argued that it should be regulated as a tech business, that it essentially provides a tech platform for drivers and riders to use.
In the United States, the rules for Uber are different from city to city.