For years Uber has been trying to convince the world it is a tech company, not a transportation company. But the highest court in the European Union isn’t having it.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) dealt a blow to the ride-hailing company this week thanks to a 2014 case stemming from a Barcelona taxi drivers’ organisation compliant that Uber creates unfair competition by not abiding by the same regulations as regular taxi services.
Uber, per usual, insisted it’s simply a company that makes an app that helps riders find drivers.
ECJ decided that argument didn’t get Uber off the hook, and in the court ruling issued on Wednesday stated that any company that intends “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 still be considered “a service in the field of transport.” The decision is expected to hamper Uber’s ability to expand its business.
But Uber insists the ruling won’t affect how the company operates.”This ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law,” an Uber spokesperson said, in a statement shared with Gizmodo and other outlets. “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 and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe. This is the approach we’ll take to ensure everyone can get a reliable ride at the tap of a button.”
While Uber publicly shrugged off the blow, the decision will likely still affect its future operations and political manoeuvring in the EU. The ruling could also affect other companies that are making similar claims of being only an intermediary service and not an active participant in the industry they’re trying to disrupt.
It’s also just the latest batch of bad news to cap off a very bad year for Uber in the EU and United States. In addition to its string of revelations of mishandling of a major user data breach, systemic mismanagement, and toxic corporate culture, Uber was banned in London last September for “lack of corporate responsibility.”