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Uber should be treated as a transport company, EU advisor says

An advisor to Europe’s highest court has said that Uber should be regulated as a transportation company, in a case that could determine the ride-hailing company’s future in the European Union.

In a opinion handed down Thursday, Maciej Szpunar, the advocate general of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said that Uber “cannot be regarded as a mere intermediary between drivers and passengers,” and that it should therefore “be required to obtain the necessary licenses and authorizations under national law.” The decision handed down today is non-binding, though ECJ rulings have historically followed the advice of the advocate general. A final ruling is expected later this year.

The case centers on whether regulators should treat Uber and other ride-hailing services as transport companies or digital platforms. If the court determines Uber is a transportation service, as taxi unions claim, it would be subject to the strict labor and safety regulations that other taxi associations face. If it decides that Uber is an “information society service,” as the company argues, it would be able to continue offering low-cost services.

The case was referred to the ECJ in 2015 by a judge in Barcelona. A lawsuit filed by a Spanish taxi association in 2014 alleged that Uber engaged in unfair competitive practices. The company later suspended its services in Spain, but returned to the country in 2016 after agreeing to hire licensed taxi drivers. Its low-cost UberPop offering previously connected users with non-professional drivers.

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