The European Court of Justice has ruled that Uber, who previously claimed they were a computer services business, are in fact a transport services company and will need to comply with the correct regulations. Uber were acting under the EU directive for e-commerce; following much less strict licensing laws than they would as a taxi operator. The decision was made in Luxembourg, following several challenges from drivers in Barcelona.
Lawyers for Barcelona’s Asociación Profesional Elite Taxi argued that Uber was directly involved in carrying passengers, and under EU rules on the freedom to provide services specifically exclude providing transport to the public. The new regulations will affect Ubers entire business across all EU countries, and the company won’t be given an oppourtunity to appeal against the decision.
In its ruling, the ECJ said 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 ruling also stated that “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.”
Uber 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.”
Responding to the claims that the ECJ decision the company and cause issues in other employment cases, an Uber spokesperson said: “Uber in the UK has always operated and been regulated under transportation law as a licensed private hire operator so this ruling does not change things here. The ECJ case is about how individual EU member states regulate peer-to-peer services, not about employment law.”
“Almost all taxi and private hire drivers in the UK have been self-employed for decades, long before our app existed. With Uber, drivers have the freedom to choose if, when and where they drive. The recent employment appeal tribunal relied on the assertion that drivers are required to take 80% of trips sent to them when logged into the app. As drivers who use Uber know, this has never been the case in the UK.”
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