Uber is facing another major setback in its plans for global expansion

Don’t forget to tip your driver.
Don’t forget to tip your driver.
Image: REUTERS/Simon Dawson
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The EU’s top court ruled today (pdf) that Uber should be regulated like a taxi company, defying the ride-hailing app’s argument that it’s a technology platform and not subject to the same rules as taxi services.

The decision is seen as a major setback for Uber, as it could become a precedent for the EU’s regulation of the bloc’s gig economy. The court said Uber’s services are more than simply an intermediation service for people seeking non-professional drivers, and instead a service in the field of transport.

An Uber spokesperson said in an emailed statement before the decision was announced that whatever the ruling’s outcome, things won’t change in most EU countries where the company already operates under transportation law. The company’s CEO has said it’s appropriate to regulate services like Uber’s and that the firm wants to partner with cities where it operates.

However, the ECJ said in its ruling that member states can regulate such services. That could make its operations more costly (paywall) through licensing fees and could require the service to provide company benefits to drivers. The ruling by the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg can’t be appealed.

The case centered on a complaint brought by a taxi group in Barcelona, which argued that it was unfair for Uber to operate under a different set of rules.

In September, London’s transport authority rejected Uber’s application to renew its license to operate private-hire vehicles in the British capital. That setback didn’t immediately change anything for the ride hailing service, as Uber was given the scope to operate until the appeals processes have been exhausted, which could take years.