Wednesday

28th Feb 2024

Uber is a transport company, EU lawyer says

  • An advocate-general at the EU's top court said "the service offered by the Uber platform must be classified as a ‘service in the field of transport’". (Photo: EUobserver)

The American company Uber operates in the field of transport, and is not an information society company, a top EU lawyer said in advice to the Court of Justice of the European Union on Thursday (11 May).

The court said in a press release that, according to one of the court's advocates-general, "the service offered by the Uber platform must be classified as a ‘service in the field of transport’."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The app's features mean that "Uber cannot be regarded as a mere intermediary between drivers and passengers", and that it "is not governed by the principle of the freedom to provide services in the context of ‘information society services’".

"Instead, the service amounts to the organisation and management of a comprehensive system for on-demand urban transport," the court's press release said.

The advocate-general's opinion is formally non-binding, but in practice is often followed by the court.

The final ruling will have repercussions for the wider phenomenon known as the sharing economy.

The opinion is a setback for Uber, which uses an online platform to connect ride-sharing drivers to people wanting to get from A to B. The passengers pay the drivers and Uber earns a fee for making the connection.

Uber has struggled with legal challenges in several EU countries since it started rolling out its services to Europe in 2012.

Especially its app, UberPop is controversial, because it involves drivers who are not in possession of a taxi license.

National authorities all over Europe have said that this amounts to unfair competition against taxi companies, and they have tried to regulate and sometimes ban Uber's activities.

Just last month, Uber pulled out of Denmark because a new national law that would treat Uber the same as traditional taxi services.

The case in the EU court was triggered in 2014 when a Spanish court asked the Court of Justice to rule on whether Uber is a transport company or an information society company.

It followed a case started by a Spanish taxi association, which saw Uber's services as unfair competition.

The EU court's final answer will have legal consequences.

Transport services, including taxis, are specifically excluded from the EU's 2006 services directive, which aims at harmonising services in the internal market.

Companies that provide information society services are covered by EU rules governing the principle of freedom to provide services. As such, they could be protected against national bans, since these may be considered discriminatory.

Last year, the European Commission gave the sharing economy the benefit of the doubt. The EU jobs, growth and investment commissioner, Jyrki Katainen, warned against the “risk of a new type of protectionism, not between nations but between old business models and new ones”.

The final ruling will likely also have consequences for other services offered in the sharing economy, which are also disrupting other business models, such as in the tourism sector.

EUobserver's annual Business in Europe magazine will come out 15 May. This year, the magazine looks at how Europe manages the sharing economy. If you would like to receive the e-version of the magazine, please register for the newsletter.

Magazine

Share you in court

Regulatory systems were not ready for the sharing economy, and now the battle has moved from the streets to the halls of justice.

Magazine

Uber still divides Europe

Uber says national regulations are often outdated, but taxi drivers still see the app as unfair competition.

Uber: Goodbye Denmark, but not farewell

Ride-sharing service Uber has announced it will shut down activities in Denmark in protest over a new law introducing the same requirements for Uber as for other taxi services.

Uber is a transport service, EU court rules

Ruling means that national governments have the right to demand that Uber drivers request the same permits and authorisations required of taxi drivers.

Opinion

The AI Act — a breach of EU fundamental rights charter?

"I hope MEPs will not approve the AI Act in its current text," warns a senior EU civil servant, writing anonymously. The normalisation of arbitrary 'algorithmic' intrusions on our inner life provides a legacy of disregard for human dignity.

Opinion

Why are German armed forces spying on domestic citizens?

It is not widely-known that the German armed forces carry out reconnaissance activities. Despite involving around 7,000 personnel, the German government does not consider the Bundeswehr is running an intelligence service, thus there is barely any control or legal oversight.

Latest News

  1. EU supply chain law fails, with 14 states failing to back it
  2. Joined-up EU defence procurement on the horizon?
  3. Macron on Western boots in Ukraine: What he really meant
  4. Amazon lobbyists banned from EU Parliament
  5. MEPs adopt new transparency rules for political ads
  6. EU nature restoration law approved after massive backlash
  7. Memo from Munich — EU needs to reinvent democracy support
  8. For Ukraine's sake, pass the EU due diligence directive

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us