Nope, you're still a transport biz, top EU court tells Uber

France et al can ban illegal taxi services without having to give Brussels a prior legislative heads-up

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Updated The EU’s top court has ruled against Uber in France, in a judgement that allows it and other member states to ban illegal taxi services like UberPop more easily.

The ruling (PDF), issued by the Court of Justice of the European Union this morning, will increase pressure on the not-a-taxi biz, and follows a decision that saw its services classed as transport, not digital.

The case relates to charges French authorities want to bring against UberPop - a ride-sharing service that links non-professional, unlicensed drivers with people in need of a lift - and whether it is an information society service.

Uber France is trying to slip out of the regulatory net by arguing it is an information society service, which would mean it fell under rules set out in an EU directive on technical standards and regulations.

This directive (PDF) stated that member states have to tell the European Commission about any draft rules or legislation that set out technical regulations of information services or products - the idea being to allow Brussels to ensure national laws comply with digital single market rules.

The French authorities didn’t do this for the criminal legislation they are trying to use to charge Uber, and so, as the ECJ noted in its judgement “Uber France infers from this that it cannot therefore be prosecuted on the charges”.

However, the ECJ was not persuaded. It reminded Uber it had last year ruled that the UberPop service offered in Spain was a transport service - not a digital one. The two countries’ services, in the court's view, are “essentially identical”.

“As the UberPop service does not therefore come within the scope of the directive, the Court accordingly concludes that the obligation to notify the Commission in advance, provided for in that directive, cannot apply,” the ECJ said.

“It follows that the French authorities were not required to notify the Commission in advance of the draft criminal legislation in question.”

The ruling allows for all member states “to prohibit and punish the illegal exercise of a transport activity such as UberPop without having to notify the Commission in advance of the draft legislation laying down criminal penalties for the exercise of such an activity”.

The Register has asked Uber for comment. ®

Updated to add

An Uber spokeswoman has been in touch to say:

This case is about whether a French law from 2014 should have been pre-notified to the European Commission and related to peer-to-peer services which we stopped in 2015. As our new CEO has said, it is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe.


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