European Union hits Uber with powerful body blow

22 December, 2017, 01:29 | Author: Irene Delgado
  • It is feared that overworked drivers could leave Uber passengers unsafe

They will be their own masters - not employees but "partners" of Uber Technologies, which, as the company recently told the European Court of Justice, is an "information society service provider", not a taxi firm.

The Ministry of Transport also urged traditional taxi firms to promote the application of technology and enhance their services to avoid being left lagging behind.

This verdict comes as a response to a complaint from 2014 from a professional taxi drivers' association in Barcelona, Spain.

"This ruling will not change things in most European Union countries where we already operate under transportation law", Uber said in a statement.

But the European Court of Justice's ruling, which defines Uber as a transport firm that must now comply with existing safety and other rules, opens a breach in that line of defense, encouraging national governments to pursue additional cases against the firm. However, the company will need to re-strategize in Europe now that its status as a digital service has been changed to a transport service.

Uber insisted that the ruling would have no impact on the way it operated in the United Kingdom and most other European countries where it was already subjected to local taxi regulations. The taxi drivers said Uber drivers should have authorizations and licenses, and accused the company of engaging in unfair competition.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that while he wanted London to be the home of innovation and new technology, Uber simply were not "operating by the rules set down by Parliament". "It is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe".

Uber plans to introduce a system next month that would limit the time that drivers could use the app, reports Reuters, but it's not immediately clear if that would extend to just the United Kingdom or across the globe.

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Uber uses a smartphone application the goal of which is to connect "non-professional drivers using their own vehicle with persons who wish to make urban journeys".

Since Uber was first launched less than a decade ago, it has repeatedly fallen foul of regulators in different countries - and has frequently been forced to change its business model as a result.

In India too, Uber is facing a somewhat similar situation.

The decision in theory applies to ride-hailing services around the 28-nation EU.

Uber appealed this decision at the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) this year. The decision might only affect its operations in four countries, and the company said it will try to keep expanding in Europe anyway.

"The goal of those rules is to make sure online innovators can achieve greater scalability and competitiveness in the European Union, unfettered from undue national restrictions", Jakob Kucharczyk, vice president for European Union policy at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, told Reuters.

"There has also been a benefit in incumbent London taxi cabs, which are now taking credit cards, which they resisted for years".

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