A court in Barcelona has referred a case about Uber to the highest court in Europe, the European Court of Justice, seeking a determination as to whether Uber is a transport service provider or a digital service. According to Reuters, determination of the case would set a precedent for Uber and other taxi hailing service, which have prided themselves as online intermediary linking willing drivers to passengers.
The case was brought before the Court, by the biggest operator in Barcelona against Uber, towards the end of last year. Uber is also facing similar problems in nations across Europe including Belgium and France. In France, opposition towards Uber by taxi drivers led to violent streaks, and led to the shutting down of UberPop service. Uber managers were also charged before a French court, for illegal activity, a suit that attracted even the input of French president Francois Hollande. Similar case in New Delhi, India forced the taxi hailing service to operate as a fully fledged taxi operator.
The case will seek to determine if the rules currently applied on Uber are indeed legal and appropriate. Uber prides itself as a digital service, meaning it bypasses local laws as well as policies on safety and licensing, which taxi drivers are subjected to. Uber’s UberPop service, which allows anyone to offer taxi service is particularly opposed by the taxi drivers as it competes directly with them, yet undergoes little legal scrutiny. If the court rules that Uber is a transport service, this may open a can of worms especially with regards to licensing issues, insurance and safety.