Europe’s top court has provided the final verdict on a multi-years legal challenge brought by EU taxi associations to Uber’s claim that it’s just a technology platform — with the CJEU today ruling it’s a transport service.
The judgement means Uber must comply with individual Member States’ transportation regulations, rather than seeking to circumvent such rules.
In its ruling the court writes that Uber’s “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”.
“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,” it adds.
Responding to the court’s verdict, an Uber spokesperson emailed this statement: “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.”
The original legal challenge was filed in 2014 by a professional taxi drivers’ association in Barcelona — seeking a declaration from that court that the activities of Uber Systems Spain amount to misleading practices and acts of unfair competition. In order to determine that matter, the court decided it needed a judgement on whether the services provided by Uber are transport services, information society services or a combination of both. Hence the case being referred to the CJEU.
While the court’s verdict is certainly a blow to Uber’s expansion ambitions in Europe, the company does already operate under transportation regulations in some European markets, such as in London. (Albeit, it has currently has its license to operate there withdrawn for unrelated reasons.)
So Uber’s contention is that the judgement will not change how it operates in most EU countries.
The ruling also only pertains to Uber’s peer-to-peer ride-hailing services — which have long faced out-and-out bans in some European markets, such as France and Spain.
In some of these markets Uber has gone on to relaunch professional services (i.e. non-p2p ride hailing) — including in Berlin and Madrid — apparently complying with local transport rules. (Although in Spain, at least, local taxi associations are still striking and protesting at the presence of Uber and other ride-hailing firms, claiming rules which are supposed to limit the number of taxi licenses to operate are being broken.)
Developing… refresh for updates…