European Union court to Uber: Face it, you're a transport service

An individual uses the Uber app in Toronto. Craig Robertson  Toronto Sun  Postmedia Network

It is now over two months since Uber's license to operate in London came to an end, and yet the taxi company is still running as normal in the UK's capital.

If the court had classified Uber as a digital service, it would have been able to profit from European Union rules on the internal market and the electronic commerce directive.

The law firm representing the Barcelona taxi association said the ruling had "great judicial significance".

UberPOP used inexperienced drivers and the service has since been suspended in most European cities.

"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 in a case brought by a Spanish taxi drivers' association. The company's CEO has said it's appropriate to regulate services like Uber's and that the firm wants to partner with cities where it operates. "This is the approach we'll take to ensure everyone can get a reliable ride at the tap of a button", it continued.

Uber has already had problems with the law in several European countries, particularly France where the company was forced to overhaul its business model. Transport for London moved not to renew its licence in September but Uber can continue to operate while an appeal is heard.

The company insisted the ruling would not affect it in most markets, including the United Kingdom, saying it already abides by local transport laws in many jurisdictions.

"If the Hong Kong government has the will to legalise Uber, this ruling won't have any impact on Hong Kong".

The ruling will however give authorities better direction on how to handle the startup.

Uber considers itself as an "information society service" that connects people through their app, which protected it from certain national regulations applied to transport companies.

The decision is seen as a major setback for Uber, as it could become a precedent for the EU's regulation of the bloc's gig economy.

"Since Hongkongers really appreciate the high standard of service from Uber, it can rent our taxi vehicles and charge passengers a higher fare", he said.



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