Yesterday we wrote about how the EU Court of Justice was looking into the topic of whether Uber should be classified as a taxi service or a technology-based middleman. In a surprisingly quick turn of events, the court has decided that Uber is, in fact, a taxi company, and should be regulated as such.
The situation first arose when Barcelona told Uber it had to obey the same rules as local taxi firms, because those same local firms were complaining the company was undercutting their business by using unlicensed drivers. Maciej Szpunar, advocate general at the EU Court of Justice, had already announced his decision that Uber was a transport company back in May, but his opinion wasn't binding. Now, though, the court has followed his example.
In it's ruling the ECJ said that a service designed "to connect, by means of a smartphone application and for remuneration, non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with persons who wish to make urban journeys" must be classified as "a service in the field of transport". Adding: "As EU law currently stands, it is for the member states to regulate the conditions under which such services are to be provided in conformity with the general rules of the treaty on the functioning of the EU."
Uber has reiterated that this decision isn't likely to change the way it operates in a number of EU countries, since it's already been following local licensing regulations in a number of places. Like the UK, for instance, where you can't drive for Uber unless you have a valid private hire licence. This decision does, however, mean it can't try and pull a fast one on regulators in future, at least not within the EU. It's also likely to affect other gig economy businesses, which followed Uber's example and officially consider themselves technology-based middlemen rather than a proper company in their own right. [BBC News]