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Europe – EU court rules Uber is a transport company, not just a tech app

20 December 2017

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled Wednesday that human-cloud firm Uber is not just a technology platform and the ride-sharing services it provides are covered by services in the field of transport. The final verdict means member states can regulate the San Francisco-based firm as a transport company — the same category as taxi companies.

The court noted that the service provided by Uber is more than an intermediation service and also that Uber exercises decisive influence over the conditions under which the drivers provide their service.

“This ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law,” Uber said in a statement. “However, millions of Europeans are still prevented from using apps like ours.”

The decision clarifies for the first time that connecting people via an app to nonprofessional drivers forms an integral part of a transport service, Bloomberg reported. It rejects Uber’s view that such services are purely digital and could fuel further scrutiny of other gig-economy firms.

“After today’s judgment innovators will increasingly be subject to divergent national and sectoral rules,” Jakob Kucharczyk, of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, told Bloomberg. The association speaks for companies like Uber, Amazon.com Inc., Google and Facebook Inc. “This is a blow to the EU’s ambition of building an integrated digital single market.”

Many taxi drivers saw Wednesday’s court decision as an important symbolic victory, The Washington Post reported. “And some other internet-based businesses fear it could pave the way for other new regulation, as European authorities look for ways to regulate companies that operate online and outside traditional sectors and don’t fit in with existing laws.”

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress in the UK, lauded the decision.

“Uber must get its house in order and play by the same rules as everybody else,” O’Grady said. “Their drivers are not commodities. They deserve at the very least the minimum wage and holiday pay. Advances in technology should be used to make work better. Not to return to the type of working practices we thought we’d seen the back of decades ago.”

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