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Uber is transport service, European Court of Justice rules

The case, which originated in Barcelona, could have implications for the gig economy as a whole

Pictured: The ECJ said in its ruling that Uber must be classified as a transport service in EU law

Uber is officially a transport company and not a digital service, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.

In the case, which could have implications for the gig economy as a whole, Uber had argued that it is an information society service that helps people to make contact with each other electronically, rather than a cab firm.

The ruling means that the ride-hailing phone app is officially a taxi service and can be regulated as such, with rules set at country level.

An Uber spokesperson said: "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 long-running case originated in Spain, where a Barcelona taxi group said that Uber had created unfair competition in the city by launching without a licence.

The ECJ said in its ruling that Uber must be classified as a transport service in EU law as its purpose was 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".

It added that under current EU law, “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.”

In September, Uber was stripped of its operating licence in London, with Transport for London accusing the company of “demonstrating a lack of corporate responsibility.” An appeal process has begun and Uber’s London drivers can continue to operate while it takes place. The appeal will be heard in June next year.

  • Anonymous user 23/12/2017

    Clearly when any app creates a financial transaction with a member of the public, and passes on part of that money to a third party, it is trading, per se. But Uber has little to fear from any regulators apart from TfL who appear to be the unthinking tool of the established black cab operators. But many black cab operators (large and small) also belong to this and other ride-hailing app services....... Nevertheless my sympathies are with the thousands of black cab drivers who have needed to invest years in acquiring "the knowledge" only to have it usurped by sat-navs (which many cabbies also use once they have acquired "the knowledge") and I therefore think it is down to TfL to sort out themselves, and not penalise others for their incompetence.

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