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Uber is a transport company, rules EU's top Court

20 December 2017, 23:09 CET
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Uber is a transport company, rules EU's top Court

Photo by Juan Carlos Sanchez

(LUXEMBOURG) - Uber's taxi service to connect customers with non-professional drivers is covered by services in the field of transport, and is liable to national regulation, the European Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday.

The electronic platform Uber provides, by means of a smartphone application, a paid service consisting of connecting non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with persons who wish to make urban journeys.

In 2014, a professional taxi drivers' association in Barcelona took legal action seeking a declaration that the activities of Uber Systems Spain, amounted to misleading practices and unfair competition.

Neither Uber Spain, or the non-professional taxi drivers, have licences and authorisations required in Barcelona. The Spanish courts needed to determine whether Uber's practices could be classified as unfair practices that infringe Spanish rules on competition, and whether Uber required prior administrative authorisation.

To that end, the courts needed to determine whether the services provided by Uber are to be regarded as transport services, information society services or a combination of both. Indeed, whether or not prior administrative authorisation may be required depends on the classification adopted. In particular, if the service at issue were covered by the directive on services in the internal market or the directive on electronic commerce, Uber's practices could not be regarded as unfair practices.

In its judgement, the Court declares that an intermediation service such as the Uber app, the purpose of which is to connect, by means of a smartphone application and for remuneration, non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with persons who wish to make urban journeys, must be regarded as being inherently linked to a transport service and, accordingly, must be classified as 'a service in the field of transport' within the meaning of EU law.

Consequently, it says such a service must be excluded from the scope of the freedom to provide services in general as well as the directive on services in the internal market and the directive on electronic commerce.

The Court says it is for EU Member States to regulate the conditions under which such services are to be provided in conformity with the general rules of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.

Judgement in Case C-434/15 - Asociacion Profesional Elite Taxi v Uber Systems Spain SL


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