Maciej Szpunar, advocate general at the Court of Justice of the European Union, has decided that Uber is, in fact, a transport company. That means its going to need a licence to operate, just like everyone else.
This is a setback for Uber, which has argued that it isn't a transport company. Uber claims that it just provides the technology that lets drivers find passengers. The new decision means Uber will need to adhere to all the same rules and regulations as proper taxi firms.
Szpunar came to his design after considering a case brought to the court's attention from an association of taxi drivers from Barcelona. They claimed Uber was unfairly competing by utilising unlicensed drivers. He says that while Uber is innovative, the company was still an essential part of how the whole system works - particularly in the way it controls prices and imposes specific conditions on its drivers. It's not, as Uber argues, a mere information service, meaning it will need to adhere to the same local laws and regulations as taxi drivers.
While Szpunar's decision isn't binding yet, judges tend to follow the advocate general's lead when it comes to these types of cases.
This will probably have an impact on the way Uber operates, or at least it will within the EU. It's likely to mean that the company will have to take better care of its drivers, and make sure they're properly trained. The decision could also have ramifications on other companies like AirBnB and Deliveroo, who are well known for taking a similar hands-off approach to their services.
As for Uber in the UK, this decision probably won't change much. Regardless of the impending Brexit, Uber Drivers in the UK already need a private hire license from the relevant local council. But I bet London cab drivers would love Uber drivers to have to pass the Knowledge Test before they start carrying passengers. [BBC News]