Europe’s top court to hear Uber case with major digital commerce implications

uber europe court
Georgii Dolgykh/123RF
Uber might be one of the better known ridesharing services out there, but the company will need to convince Europe’s top court that it is a digital service, not a transport company, reports Reuters.

The problem originated from a 2014 case, during which Barcelona’s main taxi operator accused Uber of creating a competitive environment that was detrimental to the likes of regular taxi companies. Unlike Uber, these companies must adhere to local licensing and safety regulations, since they are classified as transportation companies. Since Uber is currently not classified as a transport company, it does not have to abide by these regulations, giving the company relatively more flexibility.

Uber believes itself to be a digital platform that connects drivers with passengers, though that did not stop the taxi operator from accusing Uber of running an illegal taxi service. In an effort to seek some guidance, the Spanish judge overseeing the case went to the European Union Court of Justice, which will listen to Uber’s argument that it is a digital service, not a transport company.

The case is not just isolated to Spain, however — members of the EU are split as to whether to support or restrict Uber. The Netherlands, Finland, Poland, Greece, and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) seemingly voiced their support for Uber’s position, while Spain, Ireland, and France believe Uber to be a transport company.

Even the EU has a stake in the case, since Europe reportedly lags behind the U.S. and Asia in terms of e-commerce, with the EU publicly asserting tht it wants to change that.

If the court sides with Uber, the EU will make significant headway toward that goal, but it will have some highly dissatisfied taxi companies on its hands. If the court does not side with Uber, however, the ruling set a precedent applicable to the likes of Airbnb and others. Either way, there are bound to be some unhappy campers.

The parties’ arguments will be heard by 15 judges this week, with a decision expected sometime in the near future.

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