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Uber regulated as taxi service by EU court; UK not affected

Image credit: reuters

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Uber should be regulated as a transport company the same as other taxi operators, although the company’s UK operation should not be affected by the judgement, the firm said.

Uber 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 ECJ disagreed with Uber’s definition of its own services.

“The service provided by Uber connecting individuals with non-professional drivers is covered by services in the field of transport,” it said.

“Member states can, therefore, regulate the conditions for providing that service.”

While the ruling could change the way Uber operates in some European cities, the company insisted there will be no impact in most countries, including the UK.

Uber and its drivers already have to obtain operating licences from local authorities in the UK.

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.

Following changes at the top and legal battles, it recently adopted a more conciliatory approach under its new chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi.

The European case had been widely watched as an indicator of how the burgeoning gig economy would be regulated in Europe.

An Uber spokesman said: “This ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law.”

The verdict comes after Transport for London (TfL) refused to renew Uber’s operating licence in the capital in September on the grounds of “public safety and security implications”.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled on Tuesday that the GMB union and the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association could participate in Uber’s forthcoming legal battle to appeal against the decision.

Speaking after the ECJ ruling, GMB general secretary Tim Roache 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.”

Uber can continue operating in London during the appeal process.

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