New Blow for Uber As ECJ Says France Can Ban UberPop

The European Court of Justice has ruled that France is entitled to bring charges against Uber in France for its unlicensed driver scheme UberPop, in a move which will make it much easier for other countries to also bring charges.

In its judgement, the court said:

Member States may prohibit and punish, as a matter of criminal law, the illegal
exercise of transport activities in the context of the UberPop service, without
notifying the Commission in advance of the draft legislation laying down criminal
penalties for the exercise of such activities

The decision follows the ruling by the court that Uber is a transport service – something it argued against. UberPop, a ride-sharing service that linked non-professional drivers with people needing a lift, was an attempt to circumnavigate the rules regarding drivers being licensed.

Uber argued that the French state had no power to bring charges without first going to the European Commission because it is an ‘information society service’ which as an industry has some degree of oversight from Brussels as part of the EU’s internal market in in E-Commerce.

By arguing once again that it is not a transport service, Uber France tried to avoid safety regulations regarding licensing of drivers. But the court ruling detailed the processes of UberPop, stating:

Uber France fixes the rates, collects the fare for each journey from the customer (before paying part of it to the non-professional driver of the vehicle) and prepares the invoices.

Uber France tried to claim that because the French authorities did not first go to the European Commission to ask permission to impose rules which it felt were contrary to the directive on digital single market rules, Uber France infers from this that it cannot therefore be prosecuted on the charges.”

But once again, the ECJ was not persuaded by Uber’s arguments:

‘By today’s judgment, the Court rules that Member States may prohibit and punish the illegal exercise of a transport activity such as UberPop without having to notify the Commission in advance of the draft legislation laying down criminal penalties for the exercise of such an activity,’ the Judge wrote.

‘The Court points out, first of all, that it ruled on 20 December 2017 in the Uber Spain case 2 that the UberPop service offered in Spain came within the field of transport and did not constitute an information society service within the meaning of the directive. In the Court’s view, the UberPop service offered in France is essentially identical to the service provided in Spain, that being a matter for the tribunal de grande instance de Lille to verify.’

‘It follows that the French authorities were not required to notify the Commission in advance of the draft criminal legislation in question.’

Uber responded to the latest ruling, saying: “This case is about whether a French law from 2012 should have been pre-notified to the European Commission and related to peer-to-peer services which we stopped in 2015. 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.”

Opinion by Fareed Baloch

This is another good ruling from the European Court of Justice. There was nothing in the set up of UberPop which made it anything other than a ride hailing app, only this time it was with unlicensed drivers.

The industry needs to have strict rules on who can be issued licenses and has argued that in the UK the rules need to be tightened to protect passengers and the reputation of the industry. UberPop was a massive step backwards.

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