ECJ: Uber is a transport services company, not a tech company

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The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Uber is a transport services company, requiring it to accept stricter regulation and licensing within the EU as a taxi operator, The Guardian reported.

The decision was made after a challenge brought by taxi drivers in Barcelona and will apply across the whole of the EU, including the UK. It cannot be appealed against.

Uber had denied it was a transport company, arguing instead it was a computer services business with operations that should be subject to an EU directive governing e-commerce and prohibiting restrictions on the establishment of such organisations.

Lawyers for Barcelona’s Asociación Profesional Elite Taxi argued that Uber was directly involved in carrying passengers, and EU rules on the freedom to provide services expressly exclude transport.

In its ruling, the ECJ said: “An ‘intermediation service,’ 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.”

An Uber spokesperson said: “This ruling will not change things in most EU countries, where we already operate under transport 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 sowe 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.”

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary said: “GMB welcomes this decision which confirms that Uber is, as we have always said, a transport company.

“We now want to see sensible regulation being applied to Uber and all drivers to ensure worker and public safety, and a level playing field for all our driver members.

“No doubt TfL will be reviewing this decision closely when they consider GMB member driver evidence in Uber’s current licence appeal.”