Uber is not a taxi service. Or at least, that's what Uber would have you believe. Instead the company insists that it's a technology platform that links drivers with passengers, and nothing more. That would mean it's not subject to the same rules and regulations as, say, a local minicab firm.
Now the decision of whether Uber is or isn't a taxi firm is heading to the EU's Court of Justice, which could set a precedent for how other gig economy services are treated within the Union.
The case specifically focuses on UberPop, a low-cost service launched in a number of European cities that lets people without a taxi licence to pick up passengers. In a lot of cases legal action meant UberPop had to shut down in most locations in favour of Uber X, which requires drivers to get a licence. Losing would mean Uber has to reclassify itself as a transportation service, and potentially face new regulations and costs as a result. Though a statement made a point of noting that Uber does adhere to local transport laws already:
"Any ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law. However, millions of Europeans are still prevented from using apps like ours. As our new CEO has said, it is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber. We want to partner with cities to ensure everyone can get a reliable ride at the tap of a button.”
Uber is far from the only company to be scrutinised for its behaviour. Here in the UK Deliveroo is facing increasing pressure over the way it handles its business and fleet of couriers, and in Paris AirBnb is under fire for allegedly following different regulatory rules than the hotel industry. Uber itself has long been criticised by established taxi companies for trying to unfairly avoid the regulation its previously-established competitors are subject to.
There's currently no time-frame on how this case will play out, but whatever the result it'll have big ramifications for the ride-sharing service. We'll likely be hearing more about this in the future. The case in question is C-434/15, Asociacion Profesional Elite Taxi. [Bloomberg]