Uber will be seeking to convince Europe's top court next week that it is a digital service, not a transport company, in a case that could determine whether app-based startups should be exempt from strict laws meant for regular companies.
The European Commission is trying to boost e-commerce, a sector where the EU lags behind Asia and the United States, to drive economic growth and create jobs.
The U.S. taxi app, which launched in Europe five years ago, has faced fierce opposition from regular taxi companies and some local authorities, who fear it creates unfair competition because it is not bound by strict local licensing and safety rules.
Supporters however say rigid regulatory obligations protect incumbents and hinder the entry of digital startups which offer looser work arrangements to workers in the 28-country European Union looking for more flexibility, albeit without basic rights.
Uber found itself in the dock after Barcelona's main taxi operator alleged in 2014 that it was running an illegal taxi service. The case concerns its UberPOP service which the company halted after the lawsuit.
Uber says it is a digital platform that connects willing drivers with customers and not a transport service.
The Spanish judge subsequently sought guidance from the Luxembourg-based European Union Court of Justice.
A ruling characterizing Uber as a transport service could expose it to stricter rules on licensing, insurance and safety, with possible knock-on effects on other startups such as online home rental company Airbnb.
The case has drawn global interest. The Netherlands, where Uber has its European headquarters, Finland, Poland, Greece and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) have submitted written observations that tend to support Uber.
Spain, France and Ireland in their submissions however say Uber is a transport service. A grand chamber of 15 judges will hear the arguments, with more than 200 participants signed up for the hearing.
Someone missing here....like the UK perhaps!
The case is Case C-434/15 Asociación Profesional Elite Taxi.
BANGLADESH, MORE BACKBONE THAN TfL
Uber declared illegal just days after launch.
Bangladesh said yesterday the Uber ride-sharing service was operating “illegally”, just days after it launched in the capital.
A notice placed in a high-circulation newspaper by the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority told drivers not to work through the popular phone app.
“Uber, the online-based taxi service, is being operated completely illegally,” said BRTA director Mohammad Nurul Islam in the advertisement.
There was no immediate comment from Uber, which launched its on-demand car ride services in Dhaka on Tuesday saying it would help reduce traffic in one of the world's most congested cities by encouraging ride-sharing.
Uber appeared to have government backing when a junior minister said the launch was “part of our efforts to build smart cities”.
The service has revolutionised car share rides across the globe since it was launched in 2010, becoming one of the world's most valuable startups. But it has faced protests from established taxi operators in many places and been hit by a series of lawsuits and regulatory hurdles.
BRTA operations director Sitangshu Shekhar Biswas told AFP there was no “legal framework” for Uber to operate in Bangladesh.
“It can tie up with the country's two existing taxicab companies because we've fixed their rents and other guidelines. But its app cannot be used in other private cars or vehicles,” he said.