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Spanish judge dodges the ultimate question – is Uber a taxi company?

ECJ not expected to rule until autumn next year

Uber will continue to ferry food around Barcelona but not people, as yet another court case involving the ride-sharing pseudo-taxi service is sent to the European Court of Justice.

Last year, Spain banned the company following complaints from traditional taxi drivers. However, now a Barcelona judge has decided to let Europe’s highest court decide, crucially, whether or not Uber is a tech or transport outfit.

It will also assess whether Spain’s actions in banning the service were too harsh.

In a conference call on Monday afternoon, Uber’s chief EU lobbyist, Mark MacGann (officially head of public policy, Europe, Middle East & Africa), said he was pleased the case had been kicked upstairs.

"Uber completely supports regulation, but these rules need to be based on what’s good for consumers and drivers, not what’s in the best interests of established companies," he said.

“Outdated rules – such as return to garage regulations or minimum price and duration – are being used across the EU to squash competition, which would benefit consumers and help stimulate jobs," said McGann.

He had plenty of figures on job creation and consumer demand. According to Uber the population of Paris has doubled in the past 80 years but the number of authorised taxis has increased by only a quarter, while Madrid’s population has increased by 14 per cent in 10 years and yet the number of taxis stayed the same.

That’s not all. According to McGann, Uber is actively improving the fabric of society: “There are high prices and a lack of availability [of traditional taxis] outside city centers or wealthy neighbourhoods. This is very different from Uber, which typically serves poorer areas just as effectively."

"Almost 30 per cent of the 15,000 Uber partners in London, for example, come from constituencies where unemployment is above 10 per cent,” he added.

As Spain is under ECJ scrutiny, the European Commission will also investigate the action taken by France and Germany against Uber on similar grounds.

While this is going on – the ECJ is not expected to rule until autumn of 2016 – Uber will continue to run its UberEATS service in Barcelona, so Spaniards can still order their favourite meals at the touch of a button. ®

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