Uber should be classified as a transport service and regulated like other taxi operators, the European Union’s top court said in a landmark ruling on Wednesday, December 20, that could impact other online businesses in Europe.
Uber, which allows passengers to summon a ride through an app on their smartphones, has transformed the taxi industry since its launch in 2011 and now operates in more than 600 cities globally.
In the latest of a series of legal battles, Uber had argued it was simply a digital app that acted as an intermediary between drivers and customers looking for a ride and so should fall under lighter EU rules for online services.
“The service provided by Uber connecting individuals with non-professional drivers is covered by services in the field of transport,” the European Court of Justice said.
“Member states can, therefore, regulate the conditions for providing that service,” it said.
Uber responded by saying, “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 case follows a complaint from a professional taxi drivers’ association in Barcelona that Uber’s activities in Spain amounted to misleading practices and unfair competition from Uber’s use of non-professional drivers—a service Uber calls UberPOP and which has since been suspended in Spain and other countries.