Uber is a transport services company, the European court of justice (ECJ) has ruled, requiring it to accept stricter regulation and licensing within the EU as a taxi operator.
The decision in Luxembourg, after a challenge brought by taxi drivers in Barcelona, will apply across the whole of the EU, including the UK. It cannot be appealed against.
Uber had denied it was a transport company, arguing instead it is a computer services business with operations that should be subject to an EU directive governing e-commerce and prohibiting restrictions on the establishment of such organisations.
Lawyers for Barcelona’s Asociación Profesional Elite Taxi argued that Uber was directly involved in carrying passengers. EU rules on the freedom to provide services expressly exclude transport.
In its ruling, the ECJ said an “intermediation service”, “the purpose of which is 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 regarded as being inherently linked to a transport service and, accordingly, must be classified as ‘a service in the field of transport’ within the meaning of EU law”.
“Consequently, such a service must be excluded from the scope of the freedom to provide services in general as well as the directive on services in the internal market and the directive on electronic commerce,” the ruling said.
“It follows that, 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.”