Uber is in the business of transportation, not information - European Union judge

The Uber app on a smartphone

Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) Advocate General Maciej Szpunar said that its drivers "do not pursue an autonomous activity that is independent of the platform", Reuters reported, challenging Uber's argument that is not a taxi company because it merely matches drivers with potential clients.

If the ECJ agrees with the opinion, it will create problems for Uber's UberPOP service, which uses amateur drivers. Consequently, the service must be classified as a "service in the field of transport" The court refused to rule on the use of technology in the Uber scheme and remanded the case for a lower court to decide if any penalties are necessary. Neither Uber Spain nor the owners or drivers of the vehicles concerned have the licences and authorisations required under the city of Barcelona's regulations on taxi services. A lawyer for the Barcelona taxi drivers association said Szpunar's findings marked a "memorable day".

The ECJ is likely to reach a final ruling in the landmark case in the coming months.

If designated a transportation service, Uber will have to obtain the same licenses and authorizations as traditional transport services - possibly impacting its number of drivers and the hours they can work for Uber.

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A key attraction to Uber, one of the world's largest private hire auto companies, is how much cheaper it is compared to traditional taxi businesses. A binding decision by the ECJ is expected later this year. A campaigner against the U.K.'s vote to leave the European Union, the tax barrister set up the Good Law Project this year to implement change to the country's legal system through strategic court challenges. However, UberPOP is still operated in Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Norway, Finland and Switzerland. Uber, which allows passengers to summon a ride through an app on their smartphones, expanded into Europe five years ago but has been challenged in the courts because it is not bound by the same strict licensing and safety rules as some competitors. That ruling would also force Uber to take more responsibility for certifying, insuring and paying its drivers.

In December 2016, Uber launched its appeal against the United Kingdom employment tribunal. First known as UberCab when it was founded in 2009, the firm faced bruising regulatory battles with local taxi firms and municipal authorities, starting with its headquarters city, San Francisco where it officially launched services in 2011.

Uber's aggressive expansion has seen it repeatedly tangle with regulators across the world, from its native United States to China. The company already faces restrictions in several large countries and major cities.

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