EU Court Adviser Says France Can Lodge Criminal Charges Against Uber Managers

Ride-hailing company Uber was recently dealt a difficult blow: A European Union (EU) court adviser paved the way for France to charge local Uber managers with running an illegal taxi service.

According to a news report in Reuters, the opinion is non-binding. This prompted Uber to say it only applied to a service known as UberPOP, which used unlicensed drivers and has already been halted in France. 

EU judges will make a final ruling later in 2017, but Reuters noted they typically follow the advice given by court advisors. Two months ago, another EU opinion threw out Uber’s argument that as a digital platform, it should face less regulation than a taxi company.

The most recent case referred to the EU by a French court dealt with a 2014 French law making it a crime to organize illegal taxi services. The law places restrictions on the use of software to locate customers on the street.

Uber argued it is not a taxi company, and criminal fines placed on two managers in France were invalid because the law infringed on EU rules.

“Member states may prohibit and punish, as a matter of criminal law, the illegal exercise of transport activities in the context of the UberPOP service, without notifying the Commission of the draft law in advance,” said Maciej Szpunar, advocate general, in statement about the UberPOP case.  

Szpunar went on to say that EU member states can punish illegal transport activities provided by third parties, such as Uber, without asking for approval from the EU and regardless of whether Uber is viewed as a transport company or an information service.

Uber has said it currently only operates services in France and many European markets with drivers who are licensed to operate the vehicles.