Friday

23rd Feb 2018

Focus

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’."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Facebook promises more privacy ahead of new EU rules

Speaking in Brussels, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, says the social media giant has "not done enough to stop the abuse of our technology." Her admission comes with new plans to wrestle with "bad content".

Column / Brussels Bytes

ECJ should rule against Austrian online censorship lawsuit

EU judges have an opportunity to make clear that no member state can decide what the rest of the world reads online, now that Austria's Supreme Court has referred the Glawischnig case to the European Court of Justice.

News in Brief

  1. EU calls for immediate ceasefire in Syria
  2. UK's post-Brexit vision is 'pure illusion', Tusk says
  3. EU leaders express solidarity with Cyprus in Turkey drill row
  4. EU to double funding for Sahel forces
  5. EU parliament president: 'The immigration problem is Africa'
  6. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  7. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  8. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeAnkara Ban on LGBTI Events Continues as Turkish Courts Reject NGO Appeals
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU agrees budget to focus on defence, security and migration
  2. EU leaders nix transnational lists, cool on 'Spitzenkandidat'
  3. Regions chief: calls for smaller EU budget are 'impossible'
  4. Election fever picks up This WEEK
  5. EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy
  6. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  7. European far-right political party risks collapse
  8. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?