A key advisor to the European Court of Jusctice (ECJ) has deemed Uber to be a transport service and believes it should therefore adhere to the traditional rules of any other transport provider.
Maciej Szpunar, advocate general of the ECJ, gave his direction on whether the Uber is a transportation firm or a digital service, stating his reasons for believing the ‘Uber cannot be regarded as a mere intermediary between drivers and passengers’.
He said that Uber is not a composite digital service because it the electronic means of the ride hailing app is not ‘economically independent’ of the service which is provided, and because Uber supplies the whole service itself – and, therefore, cannot be considered as a true intermediary between anything.
“Drivers who work on the Uber platform do not pursue an autonomous activity that is independent of the platform,” the ECJ’s release reads. “On the contrary, that activity exists solely because of the platform, without which it would have no sense.”
General Szpunar’s view relate to a case referred to the ECJ by a judge in Barcelona regarding the UberPop service in the city. An association representing taxi drivers in Barcelona said that Uber were not entitled to provide their service because the company nor its owners or drivers of vehicles had licenses or authorisations required under laws in the city.
It is important to note that, while General Szpunar’s views could potentially have a massive bearing on Uber’s ability to operate in Europe, his opinion is non-binding and merely offers direction to the ECJ regarding a potential decision. The ECJ do not always follow the guidance of their advocate generals but tend to, however.
If implemented, European nations will have the freedom to force Uber to acquire licenses to operate in their cities, as well as adhering to the labour and safety regulations that other taxi firms must follow.
“We have seen today's statement and await the final ruling later this year,” said an Uber spokesman in a statement. “Being considered a transportation company would not change the way we are regulated in most EU countries as that is already the situation today. It will, however, undermine the much needed reform of outdated laws which prevent millions of Europeans from accessing a reliable ride at the tap of a button.”