January 20, 2018

Uber is officially a cab firm, says European court

22 December 2017, 01:32 | Kara Nash

Top EU court: Uber should be considered a transport company

The EU's top court has decided Uber is a taxi company after all

Ride hailing phone app Uber is a taxi service and can be regulated, an EU Court has ruled.

The Uber case before the European Court of Justice centered on a complaint brought by a taxi group based in Barcelona, Spain.

The ruling says that as a transport service, Uber will be excluded from the scope of the freedom to provide services in general as well as "on services in the internal market and the directive on electronic commerce".

While the EU Court of Justice's ruling covered UberPop - which used drivers without taxi licenses and has already been shuttered in many countries because of the legal issues - it's a real blow as the first definitive finding that Uber must be regulated by transport authorities. They deserve at the very least the minimum wage and holiday pay. It said the ruling "confirms that Uber does not simply exist "on the cloud" but is well established with its wheels firmly on the road".

The company said in a statement that it already complied with most of the region's transport laws, so its operations would not be affected.

Uber said in a statement that the ruling "will not change things in most European Union countries where we already operate under transportation law" and that it will "continue the dialogue with cities across Europe" to allow access to its services.

However, the ex-Uber worker agreed that conditions were getting much tougher, as national courts were increasingly forcing Uber to requalify drivers as full-time employees. Until its appeal is heard against the EAT decision that its drivers are workers, Uber's 40,000 United Kingdom drivers lack entitlement to the same employment rights as its full-time permanent staff.

Drivers signed up to the ride-hailing app could now be forced to obtain similar licenses and authorizations to carry passengers.

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Almost a third of Uber's 50,000 United Kingdom drivers are logged into the app for more than 40 hours a week, and around 8 percent are logged in for more than 60 hours, the company said in a letter to government officials.

The London Central Employment Tribunal heard the preliminary case in July 2016.

The verdict comes after Uber was told last month that the appeal to renew its licence in London could take years, according to Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Hoang Thi Ha Giang, Deputy Director of the Tax Policy Department, said clear regulations were needed to efficiently collect taxes from Uber and Grab, which was stil a headache.

The EU ruling is separate from a string of ongoing legal challenges Uber has faced around Europe and the world, including in Britain.

The European Union top court has restrained the ride-hailing company's claim of being a tech-firm and not a taxi company.

In contrast, rules for digital platforms - which the company had argued it was - are set Europe-wide. "Whether the political will and time exists to push these proposals forward in the United Kingdom remains to be seen", she warned.

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