Uber is a transportation firm, not a digital company, European court rules

PHOTO: A sign marks a pick up point for the Uber car service at LaGuardia Airport in New York, March 15, 2017.PlaySeth Wenig/AP FILE
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Uber is a company that provides transportation services in Europe rather than a digital firm, according to a ruling today by the European Court of Justice, the European Union's highest court for deciding matters of European law.

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The decision come three years after a taxi association in Spain asked a commercial court in Barcelona to review Uber’s activity as “unfair competition.” To that end, the court had to figure out whether Uber was providing “information society” services or transport services.

The court said that Uber’s service was beyond “intermediation service consisting of connecting, by means of a smartphone application.”

PHOTO: People enter the Uber Technologies Inc. headquarters building in San Francisco, June 21, 2017David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
People enter the Uber Technologies Inc. headquarters building in San Francisco, June 21, 2017

Uber said the ruling would not affect its activity in most EU countries where the company already operates under transportation law.

“However, millions of Europeans are still prevented from using apps like ours," an Uber spokesperson told ABC News in a statement. "As our new CEO has said, it is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe."

PHOTO: A driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield, drops off a customer in downtown Los Angeles, Jan. 12, 2016. Richard Vogel/AP FILE
A driver displaying Lyft and Uber stickers on his front windshield, drops off a customer in downtown Los Angeles, Jan. 12, 2016.

While it is yet to be seen what implications this ruling might have for Uber, one expert believes it may later expand to other sharing economy services.

"There could be big implications for a sharing economy service like Airbnb, which will probably be regulated by the EU," Rohan Silva, a tech entrepreneur, said in an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today program.

PHOTO: The Uber app logo is displayed on a mobile telephone, Oct. 28, 2016.Toby Melville/Reuters FILE
The Uber app logo is displayed on a mobile telephone, Oct. 28, 2016.

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