A European Union court is slated to decide later this week if ridesharing firm Uber is a digital company or one that provides transport services.
According to a report in Reuters, a ruling in the case is expected Wednesday (Dec. 20). If the court decides Uber is a transportation company, that decision should not have an immediate impact on the company’s operations. It will give local EU authorities permission to regulate Uber as if it was a taxi company, however.
Uber has long argued it is a digital app and simply the middleman between drivers and customers who need a ride. The judges must rule if the company provides transport services, online services or some combination of the two. EU laws protect online services from unnecessary restrictions, but transport services are regulated on the national and local level without any oversight from the EU.
“Any ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law,” a spokeswoman for Uber explained. “As our new CEO [Dara Khosrowshahi] 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.”
The case on which the judges are ruling comes from a complaint brought by a Barcelona, Spain-based taxi association which has claimed Uber is engaging in unfair competition by offering an unlicensed service, UberPOP. The service has been suspended in other European cities.
Uber has since scaled back its use of unlicensed drivers after facing court fights and protests from taxi drivers. The company only operates services with unlicensed drivers in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania, though it is switching drivers in Poland and the Czech Republic to operate under local transportation laws in the two countries.