EU Says France Can Fine Uber
Uber faced another blow to its business in Europe on Tuesday, July 4, after the EU’s highest court appeared to side with French authorities that charge Uber broke France’s laws.
At the heart of the case, which started in 2016, is what kind of business Uber is running—a transportation company, or simply an app that connects passengers with drivers.
In 2014, France passed a law that prohibited ride-sharing apps from using drivers that were not licensed as professionals, and were not required to have insurance.
Uber said it stopped that service, called UberPop, in 2015 and now only works with professional drivers. However in 2016, French authorities brought criminal charges against the company for breaking the 2014 law.
Uber sought to have the case thrown out over a technicality that EU nations must notify the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU government, before making any changes to its regulation of an information society services.
The opinion of the advocate general, which is nonbinding, is that France did not need to notify the commission before the law was passed because the law passed did not fall into that category.
In making that decision, the advocate general referenced another nonbinding opinion he issued in May to the European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) that defined Uber as a transport company, not an app.
“Member states may prohibit and punish the illegal exercise of a transport activity such as UberPop without having to notify the Commission of the draft law in advance,” Advocate General Maciej Szpunar said in a press release. “The UberPop service falls within the field of transport and, consequently, does not constitute an information society service within the meaning of the directive.”
While the ECJ’s final ruling is due by the end of the year, the advocate general’s opinion is often a good indication of how the court’s judges will rule.
“We have seen today’s statement and await the final ruling later this year,” an Uber spokeswoman said in an email to Reuters.