A European Union (EU) top court on Wednesday ruled that Uber is like God is Good Motors (GIGM) and any other transportation company, instead of an app, and should be regulated as such.
A Spanish taxi association sued Uber after the ride-hailing firm drew the fury of local taxi drivers and officials for flouting local regulations.
“The service provided by Uber connecting individuals with non-professional drivers is covered by services in the field of transport.
“Member states can, therefore, regulate the conditions for providing that service,” said the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice.
Uber, the biggest name in the growing gig economy, claims in the lawsuit that it is a mere service provider, connecting consumers with drivers in more than 600 cities.
Uber has run into huge opposition from taxi companies and other competitors who say this allows it to dodge costly regulations such as training and licensing requirements for drivers and vehicles.
The case was brought by a taxi drivers’ association in the Spanish city of Barcelona, where belief runs high that Uber is a taxi company that should be subject to rules governing such vehicles.
In a dense legal judgement, the European Court of Justice said Uber was a service that connects “by means of a smartphone application and for remuneration non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with persons who wish to make urban journeys”.
That means it is “inherently linked to a transport service and, accordingly, must be classified as a ‘service in the field of transport’ within the meaning of EU law”.
Reacting to the ruling, spokesman for the Elite Taxi association, Ivan Esma, told newsmen, “This will truly represent a social victory, and the whole of society will benefit from this” while adding that “the road will be long” for the ruling to be enforced.
Meanwhile, Uber has said the ruling would make little difference in practice.
“This ruling will not change things in most EU countries where we already operate under transportation law,” an Uber spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Nigerian drivers on the Uber platform, however, have a way of boycotting the service, citing several reasons.